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Interview with photographer | Geof Kern

Why do you take photos?

I fell in love with photography as a teenager in the 1960’s and basically have been making pictures ever since. I don’t have any plans to stop.

Describe your start in photography.

I found a book, Classic Cinema by Parker Tyler, at the corner drugstore.  This was before photography as art everywhere, this was before the movie Blow Up, this was before PBS, this was when people had hi-fi consoles, this was a long time ago, and I was a teenager in a little quiet suburb of Los Angeles mowing lawns and writing poetry.

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

Again, as young man, you fall in love.  You learn from other people.  Not always photographers in my case, but I remember buying Paris Vogue all the time in the 70’s for Guy Bourdin.  Bill Brandt, when I discovered him.  Harry Shunk, with his picture of Yves Klein jumping off the building that caused such a sensation in Paris.  My wife called him up and asked if he would sell a print of that picture, he said sure, and I have it.  Contemporary photographers, I mean there are many whose work I like.  Larry Fink, Koto Bolofo, Robert Wilson, not that he’s a photographer really.  I haven’t made the definitive list, there are always some names at the tip of your tongue any given moment.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

I like it when I get letters from people all over the place saying how a picture touched their lives.  One of the awards I like the best is from a Rotary Club in Pittsburgh, a kind of wooden plaque with a gold gavel and gears on it, given to me for photographing their native son August Wilson for Esquire.  I value that award as much as I do saying my work is in a museum.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

Equipment is not so much important to me.  I use the standard stuff everyone else uses.  I view the equipment as the bridge, not the destination so I don’t dwell on it much.

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

Strange question.  Well, I can pick out pretty quick which frames I like.  I usually know when I’m shooting, it’s that little voice.  It’s that little voice when you’re looking at files on a computer.  Which one?  I tend to not overshoot, and I tend to pick quickly.  Why labor, over-think it.  As far as retouching, I am not a retoucher so I have a real retoucher.  I often do comps myself to show the client kind of what it might look like, if it’s that kind of picture, and this is also a tool as a reference for my real retoucher.  I think this question might be for gallery photographers.  Because normally I don’t print my pictures.  For the limited editions I have had printed for a gallery in Los Angeles there is a place that specializes in that.  Some day I would like to try photogravure.  And of course I used to print all of my own black and white prints before the year 2000.  I have an archive room full of them.

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

I want to do work that is not necessarily commercial applicable.  I should have started this a long time ago.  But I have been a working photographer because I need to work.  Maybe some time will free up in the near future.

Interview with photographer | Diana Koenigsberg

Why do you take photos?

Photography is a form of communication for me. It is a vehicle for creating ideas that are layered and rich. Especially when shooting portraits, I have always felt that photographs validate our lives, and I love being a part of that.

Describe your start in photography.

I studied photography at San Fransisco Art Institute and then at Art Center College of Design. I then worked concurrently shooting editorial projects and assisting for 3 years, after which I was able to shoot full time.

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

Martin Parr, his images capture the imperfection and humor in humanity, while retaining a journalist’s objectivity. I love the work of Geof Kern, each of his images have a short story contained within them.

Lastly, I love Helmut Newton’s work. He loved women, but never photographed them as though they were objects. The women in his images are always sexy, confident and very present.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

My greatest experience as a photographer is every time I get to practice my craft. I love to work, and consider myself very lucky to be working.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

Photography is not about equipment for me, although it is vital to have the right equipment for each project. It’s about putting together just the right group of talented people, and then using the best equipment available to articulate my ideas.

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

I often do a first edit on set with my client so that we can determine that we are achieving our goal. I then do a second or third round of editing before sending the client 10 – 15 images from a single set up. I retouch simply to cleanup, and color correct most images. When head swapping or big stuff is required, I hire a retoucher to do that. I always over see the final files. Most projects no longer require printing as files are delivered either via ftp or on a hard drive. For my portfolios I print on an Epson 7800 large format printer. When selling prints I use Epson’s Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper.

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

My aspiration is to continue doing what I love to do, make photographs and get paid for it.

Interview with photographer | Chris Buck

When did you first become involved in photography and why?

As a teenager I was very much into the popular culture side of the arts. I would have obsessions with bands (first Kiss and Queen, and later Punk Rock and Electro Pop groups), also movies (Star Wars) and television (Monty Python). I had to find some way to be involved in that world, and as I got into my college years my involvement in the local music scene grew.

It was really exciting, within a few years I became something of a figure in the Toronto scene – putting out compilation tapes, managing a band and working for the local music paper. But I soon realized that I didn’t want to be on the business side of things, and I had no musical abilities, so my focus was moved towards photographing the bands.

I always had some creative talent, and my father worked for Kodak, so photography was an easy fit.

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

When I first started shooting musicians Anton Corbijn was a big influence. Rock photography seemed pretty dull and literal up until that point so I found his pictures inspiring for their beauty and subtlety.

I loved the way that Irving Penn would make these odd portraits of the great figures of his day. It seems reasonable now but I remember thinking in college that it was kind of ballsy to imagine that I could approach someone like Johnny Thunders with the seriousness of a Penn portrait.

Other influences along the way include Joel Sternfeld, Jeff Wall, Wolfgang Tillmans, Greg Miller, David Barry, Katy Grannan, Peter Hujar, Juergen Teller, Sarah Wilmer and Taryn Simon. My work doesn’t necessary look like theirs but they’re people who made me look at photography differently.

Now that I’ve been working for a while I’m actually more interested in how photographers have managed their career. I admire the consistency and output of Annie Leibovitz. I love how Cindy Sherman’s work gets weirder and less appealing (in an obvious way) as she moves into her fourth decade shooting. Or how Lee Friedlander can quietly build an amazing body of varied work over a lifetime.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

Eating lunch after the shoot.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

For film I have a Mamiya 67 RZ, and for digital I currently use one of the Canon cameras for editorial and a Hasselblad for advertising. I’m still waiting for a digital camera that impresses me, so I just rent for now.

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

A photographer is largely defined by their edits, especially in an area like portraits, as the process of shooting is so collaborative. It’s in the editing stage that I will aggressively push my vision forward.

It’s not uncommon for there to be just one or two frames that I consider to be successful, everything outside of that are just dull outtakes.

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

As much as I’m proud of much of the work that I’ve done I’m also unsatisfied by it. I’m not where I’d like or need to be. I think that there are ways of achieving great celebrity portraits that I haven’t reached yet. I don’t know what that “unachieved” thing is yet, as I have yet to get there.

As well I want to continue doing series work, sometimes related to celebrity, sometimes not. I think that in my attempt to add breadth I end up also adding depth to my work in doing these ambitious projects.

I’ve been shooting more short videos and that has been an interesting exercise. The challenge is to let the medium say something different than my photographs while not totally breaking away from my style.

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.

Interview with photographer | Dietmar Busse

When did you first become involved in photography and why?

After I finished high school I hitchhiked all over Europe and Morocco and eventually got stuck in Madrid, Spain, instead of attending college. I was really young and went out clubbing every night and I met a lot of people that worked in the fashion industry. Their world sparked my imagination. I knew absolutely nothing about photography and so I looked for photography books and I found the work of Irving Penn. I saw his work from Papua New Guinea and I was hooked. Shortly after, one of my model friends introduced me to a photographer who always had 3-4 assistants and I started working there learning the craft.

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

August Sander for beautifully documenting people of a world gone by. Peter Hujar for the incredible depth and emotional quality in his portraits. Diane Arbus for her choice of subjects. Mark Morrisroe for the freedom he allowed himself in his work. Richard Avedon for his exquisite fashion work.

 

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

My last breakthrough.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

Some vintage Hasselblad. Gives me great quality on the film and I love it. A very old Speedotron Strobe. Brown line, amateur series. Bought it when I came to New York in 1991 and I never saw a reason to ‘upgrade’ for it works great.

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

Ideally, I take a few days before I look at the contacts, for I like to get some emotional distance from the shoot. From the highs, lows, expectations that I or others might have. I like to get to it with a fresh eye and look for things that speak to me. I have never used Photoshop. For art projects I do my own prints in the darkroom.

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

To create a body of work that is very personal and unique to who I am as an artist. I see myself as a storyteller and I would hope that the viewer will find something in the work that will enrich their life in whatever small tiny way.

Interview with photographer | Jens Windolf

Why do you take photos?

I can’t properly answer the question because I suspended taking photos some months ago. It is very presumable that I will go back again some day and be able to answer your question.

 

Describe your start in photography.

I started in the beginning of 2008 with a point and shoot camera not exactly knowing why and how to do it. That attitude changed relatively fast and I became obsessed by questions regarding photographic methods as well as compositions.

 

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

I’m fascinated by the works of Thomas Ruff, Thomas Demand and Takashi Yasumura mostly because of the soberness they find in places or, like in Demand’s work, they are going to rebuild themselves.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

To be alone in an empty room. Just me and the space and all the time to find a point of view and/or an attitude.

 

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

All of my work was done with a Mamiya 7II. I never used flashes or other artificial light sources. For me taking photographs was never incorporated to looking at photographs at the same time. I think I really detest digital photography because of that synchrony.

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

Selecting is easy because I always tried to avoid retouching. Sometimes I did ten or more exposures of one motive just to be sure to have done the right one. Sure, I did a little color corrections or dust removals.

 

What sets your work apart from others’?

That it is not going to grow anymore?! But to be more serious, I don’t think it is on me to answer that.

 

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

If I ever go back into photography I would like to work with large format cameras, spending even more time in the rooms I’m interested in and spending more time to file the negatives and prints.

Interview with photographer | Jay Muhlin

When did you first become involved in photography and why?

I have been fascinated with photography for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would use the family camera–my early work mainly involved out-of-focus photos of squirrels and pigeons at the zoo. In high school, I worked at a one-hour photo store; I got the job because I asked so many questions during the interview. In college, I thought I should take photography more seriously when I was cutting my classes to have more time to print in the darkroom. It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t thinking about photography or how images describe thoughts without words. The original magic that made photography mysterious has kept me intrigued.

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

When I was starting out, I could easily geek out with photography’s early history. Anything Victorian captivated me; it was like looking at images from another world. I was mostly interested in formal qualities of the work, so photographers like Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston used to captivate me. I became obsessed with Alfred Stieglitz and that opened a broader interest with photography. I fell in love with Andrea Modica’s work for its ability to touch on an emotional truth. The more photography I look at, the more I appreciate different points of view. My list of favorite photographers is quite long. Photographers that didn’t interest me in the past, like Robert Adams, are some of my favorites now. Artists who use photography, like Ed Ruscha, offer an important and unchained freshness to the medium. Finding inspiration outside of photography is also really important; for example, while writing this response, I’m listening to the new PJ Harvey album–her music has been a long time inspiration.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

It might be simple: concentrating absolutely while making a photograph and surprising myself with the result.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

I am a reformed equipment freak. But I still use a lot of different formats of cameras from 35mm to 8×10. It really depends on the project I am working on. I mainly used a Hasselblad when I was an undergrad at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and after when shooting for editorial jobs. I have been using a Hasselblad for over 15 years; it’s second nature and travels very well. I used it for photographing my circus work in Switzerland and most recently when in Japan photographing for a new book I am currently working on. I use large format cameras frequently as well. Cameras are just tools. I am now working on a few projects and finding a new pleasure

in using an old 35mm point and shoot. At the same time, I am grinding my teeth and coughing up the cash for film to feed my 8×10 camera.

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

I am my own worst enemy. I compulsively make images and am then left with a lot of choices. I am currently editing images of landscapes made at 55mph or faster from 18-wheel truck. I shot this project with a Cannon 5D Mark 2 and I have over 20,000 images. I have been using Adobe Lightroom to edit, and it is taking a little while.

I worked at a magazine retouching; it was a great education working with other photographers’ images. It offered a chance to problem solve with a variety of issues and think about images mechanically. Good retouching requires particular skills and is a different way of seeing images. I don’t retouch my images for the most part–just subtly finesse them. A few of the photos from Japan are composite images.

What sets your work apart from that of others?

It’s an interesting question- I think if I saw photographs that spoke for me I wouldn’t have a need to make my own. I change my voice to fit a project or idea. I don’t feel the need to define myself by having one signature style. I want to push myself into new territory- I love how the medium of photography is so versatile.

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

I am currently working towards finishing an MFA in photography at Syracuse University. It was been wonderful to have time to focus on my art. I have been able to push myself out of my comfort zone by taking a poetry class and working with video. I am obsessed with photography books. I would like to try to put out a book a month for a year as a challenge to myself.