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LAB PHOTOGRAPHY INTERVIEW
For how long have you done photography? How did you begin?
I have always been interested in
photography. My father did a lot of family photography using a Roliflex TLR and
processing his own images. Early on I shot 8mm film movies but also used a non-SLR
35mm camera for still pictures. I have always had a strong interest in the
visual composition of things which combined with my interest in technical fields
like radio electronics and computers, for me it is a natural convergence of
interests leading to my artistic development in both theater and photography.
My interest and career in theater, especially as a Lighting Designer and later as a producer director, caused me to use photography to build first a design portfolio, and then later a director’s portfolio. As a Theatrical Lighting Designer I feel has influenced my understanding of the nature of light in general and helps me in my photography. Thus photography became avocational to support my theater work. I also began shooting actor’s headshots and other portrait and publicity work as an adjunct to my production images.
I have been active as a fine art photographic artist for over forty years.
What has been your education as a photographer?
My training has been largely self-taught. I have a fairly extensive library of photo method books, manuals plus I study various photographers' techniques in their work. I constantly seek to keep myself current by further reading and study plus the many resources found on the web.
What is your favorite type of photography?
Outside of theater, I always was interested
in a wide variety of subjects. As a pilot I have shot aerial images, but I am
drawn to scenics, landscapes, “found” stills life images, structures, aviation
themes, nautical themes, portraits, figure studies, and flora & fauna
I actually enjoy shooting theater show publicity shots, headshots, and the production pictures. I have actually exhibited my theater work which together shows my work as a lighting designer/producer-director, and as a photographer.
What do you try to express through your photography?
Creative photography is more than making a simple visual recording, it involves the innovative artistry and vision of a photographer, who manipulates the given visual elements in order to both preserve and represent the subject while creating New Perspectives. I view my artistic photography as more than merely making a visual recording of existing subjects, but to capture both obvious and subtle visions of the subject. A photograph actually freezes a moment in time, forever preserving an image of people, places, things, or events, which then can be revisited again and again, thus creating an existence of its very own. A creative image is both the product of the subject and the artist, whose discriminating perception seeks to evoke those more intangible and profound impressions of intimacy and mood. The viewer completes this triad (subject, artist, and viewer) by hopefully realizing a successful artistic communication.
How do you choose your subjects?
In both my color and monochromatic
photography, understanding light is the key to any successful image. While color
photography currently has less artistic acceptance, it forms a major portion of
my scenic and nature work. Color is an important compositional element, tied
more directly to mood than any other visual element. Modern photography can
create a full palate and range of natural colors, and manipulating this natural
color to enhance or intensify the mood represents an important stylistic portion
of my work. When I choose monochrome over color, it is to heighten the focus on
shape, form, texture, pattern, and tonality, by removing color as a visual
element. By its inherent nature, a black & white image evokes a different and
more ethereal emotional response to the subject.
The postcard style images are consciously
part of my scenic visual style. Compressing the visual elements in order to
achieve a flattened perspective of the subject is a strong characteristic of my
scenic images. Isolating a subject from the background in order to reveal and
capture details, which may be otherwise overlooked by a casual observer, is an
important style element of my photography. Especially used in my close-up macro
work, I like to focus attention on the minute details of the subject.
An artist's style should not be static, but consistently open to alternate visions.
What type of preparation do you do before undertaking the photo session?
If it is a studio type session, then of
course the entire flash lighting set-up, any background, props, scenic pieces
that will be part of the shoot.
If I am in the field, I try to take what equipment I really need and leave what I do not absolutely need. I like to use two camera bodies so I can minimize changing lenses in the field. Where possible I use a tripod or at least a monopod especially for telephoto or marco shots.
Basic equipment preparation: charge and have spare batteries, CF Flash cards formatted and ready to use, operational checks on cameras, cables, lenses, flashes, reflectors, etc. are always part of a photo shoot.
Do you normally photograph with a purpose already in mind, or do you let yourself go with the flow?
I will do both. Obviously theater publicity
and production photos have a definite goal in mind with specific techniques to
be used in their production.
The same with head shots or other studio type photography require flash lighting set-ups in preparation to the actual shoot.
With my fine art photography, I will often let opportunities appear. One of my favorite things is what I call a "found still life." A subject that I did not plan to shoot but discovered while exploring other subjects.
Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sigma, Olympus, Sony, Pentax...which do you place your bets on and why?
I have shot with Canon most of my serious
photographic life. Starting with an AE-1 and moving to A-1s and finally a couple
of T-90s. It was difficult to make the jump to EOS because I had such a large
investment in quality lenses (FD series).
Nikon was the leading pro camera brand with Canon seemingly having a second tier status for many years. That has really changed in the past ten years as many photographers are shooting with Canon EOS as Nikon. Canon has always had a reputation for quality glass especially in their "L" series lenses. Canon is also involved in the entire image making process and their CMOS sensor is second to none.
Describe your current equipment: cameras, lenses, computers, accessories...
I use two Canon 5D Mark IIs and two
Canon 5Ds which have full-frame (36x 24mm) image sensors at 21MP and 12.8
MP. I like the fact that there is no “crop factor” so the lens will produce the
same final image as with 35mm film cameras. For lenses I like zooms -
understanding their inherit faults. I use a Canon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 for
general purpose or casual work, 24-105mm f/4L IS, and a 70-200mm
f/2.8L IS (Image Stabilization) lens for outdoor and theater/concert
production photography. I also have a 70-200mm f/4L that is lighter as a back-up
to my other zoom lenses. I also have 1.4x and 2x extenders to use on my 70-200mm
zoom to achieve better close-up both outdoors and even in theater photography. I
now also have a Canon Rebel T1i (APC-C sensor) 15.1 MP sensor as a
back-up/causal carry around camera using its EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS or one of
my other lenses. I have a several studio mono flash units with softboxes and
umbrellas, backdrops, chromakey backgrounds, etc for studio portrait, actor
headshot, and publicity photos. In the past I used tungsten studio lights for
portraits which I still occasionally use. I also use portable flash (Canon
580ex) on a Stroboframe for location of the rare locations event, and I carry a
portable reflector for natural light. I almost always use a tripod or monopod
for exterior work, and I often carry both cameras for outside work so I am able
to quickly shift from telephoto to wide angle without changing lens in the field
(that is something I always did with my film cameras). I have always been a
heavy filter user. Currently I use the Cokin “P” series that slides into the
front of lens. Almost always I use a polarizer (I have three, one for each
camera) for sunny exterior shots to achieve more saturated colors. I also use
gradient blue and neutral density on scenics and sunset filters to enhance and
saturate colors. I used to use color filters for B&W photography but Photoshop
has made that unnecessary.
Film cameras I have used in the past are Canon AE-1, A-1, T90 (I have two of each and three of the AE-1s).
What software and plug-ins do you use to retouch and manage your photos?
I use Photoshop CS5 and the plug-ins NIK Collection, Portrait Pro/Body, ON1 Series for most of my digital work.
For a long time I used GIMP, a free but very
powerful image editor, and I recommend anyone who cannot get Photoshop to
download and use it (gimp.org).
Most students qualify for an educational discount on a full version of Photoshop
for around $280. I have been using digital editing for quite some time, even
when shooting film I would get my images burned on a CD-ROM as JPEGs or scan
high resolution digital images.
Canon's Digitial Photo Professional (packaged with most EOS cameras) is fairly powerful management and RAW editor. I occasionally use it as part of the workflow in lieu of PS CS5 Raw editor.
At present, I manually manage my images using "shoot folders" filed by date. Images that are worthy for further editing are copied into a working folder and final images are sorted by theme or content. When I shoot I almost always shoot RAW and usually the smallest size/resolution JPEG also.
I use some filter effect plug-ins and plan to expand the use of these.
What measures do you take to protect your work against Internet piracy?
I am re-tooling my website to address the
issue. Most of my current web images are fairly low resolution so there their
use is fairly limited outside of the internet.
Embedding Meta Tag copyright data in images will certainly be a part of any internet images.
Are you a good salesperson of your work? In what should you improve?
Because I do mostly photography directly
related to my theater work, this workflow process is fine.
Due to my theater commitments, my fine art photography appears and is sold mostly through my web site, or at gallery exhibits.
During the last few years while completing my DFA degree in theater, my gallery showings were limited. With that degree completed, I plan to more aggressive in seeking exhibiting opportunities in the area including the greater Chicagoland area.
Which past masters of photography do you most admire?
I have several for different types of work
and photographers that have influenced directly or indirectly my own
I admire Ansel Adams for his striking B&W scenic photography and I have been working on B&W images that attempt to achieve the textures Adams achieved in his work. What Adams did in the darkroom using chemical based methods also work in the digital era with Photoshop. He would have completely understood its use if alive today.
Like Adams, I also feel Edward Weston’s very realistic work in B&W using still life, nude figure studies, landscapes, and other natural forms had a sharp and clear image style that gives his work an unique texture and composition. Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand both have work that falls into this realistic photographic realm where sharp images should be seen as art.
The western-themed and American Indian portraits of Edward Curtis are striking more for their subjects than the photography itself, yet they seem to tell a whole story in each image.
Landscape and Wildlife photographers like Art Wolfe, George Lepp, and John Shaw all produce stunning outdoor images that I try to emulate in my own color work.
John Hedgecoe and Tom Ang are photographic "generalists" that shoot a wide variety of subjects and styles that I tend to do in my own photography.
I admire the edgy work of art and fashion photographer Richard Avedon, that seems to push the envelope of subject matter in this field. Also Anne Leibovitz fits into this genre of edgy portraiture.
Gary Bernstein's commercial and celebrity portrait photography, especially of the model Kay Sutton York (Lena Harris) also his wife, has appeared in numerous print advertising campaigns plus his many iconic celebrity portraits.
I also study the work of realist oil artist like Edward Hopper, whose use of light is inspired. Also the work of Scottish artist Jack Vettriano and his use of light and form provides a great study for me as a photographer.
Are technology and digital retouching reducing the gap between professionals and amateurs?
Certainly! But technology will never replace good photographic technique or creative artistry in retouching and editing. Often when people view even my casual photographs and comment on them by saying something like "these are so good - what kind of camera do you use?" I often gently tell them its not just the camera, but it is the photographer.
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