March 3, 2011
I am honored to be named Friday Art Star by Photopol.
Here is the interview:
When and how did you become interested in Photography?
It was the summer after high school and before college. I didn’t have a summer job that year and I thought perhaps I should learn something instead. Photography seemed really appealing as I grew up watching my grandfather play with photography all his life.
What gear do you mainly shoot with?
For Wok the Dog series, I shoot with a Hasselblad Xpan and a Hasselbald 501 CW. The series has been going on for 14 years now. I started on film and so I continue to shoot the project on film for both issue of continuity and also because I really love film.
For everything else, I tend to pick the gear that is best suited to the project and what the parameter dictates.
What is your #1 source of inspiration?
Most of my projects revolve around the issues of HOME, SEX, FOOD and STORIES.
I am interested in the relationship between things / people / places / time / space, all the spaces in between, how one resolves another and re-frames each other.
Many times photographers find themselves with a full schedule of paying gigs, ending up with little time for doing the work they truly love. Do you struggle with finding time for your personal work?
Of course finding time to make the work that you really love and are passionate about can be a challenge but if it matters, then you find a way to make the time. I spend a lot of time on the business side of my business but I allow myself large chunks of time where I take off and travel and continue to create work for WOK THE DOG. You have to make it a conscious choice to give yourself the time.
What is your all time favorite genre to shoot (portraiture, conceptual, documentary, commercial, etc..)?
I like shooting subject matters that interest me. Each genre has its challenges and I think its important to understand the essence of the thing that you enjoy and not get stuck in the genre. I started out practicing old school fine art landscapes in the style of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. I then moved on to portraits, fashion, conceptual, commercial, editorial and finally ending with a long term project that is documentary in style. If you had told me when I was practicing landscape that I would end up shooting in a cinematic narrative inspired documentary style I would not have believed you.
Do you have any upcoming shows or events you want our readers to know about?
I have a show opening tonight (March 4th) in NYC and you can find all the details here. I was selected to be part of “In Plain Site” with ArtBridge also in NYC. I had a small piece in a group show called “Holiday Exchange” with The Homefront Gallery. I recently closed a two person show, “EveryDAY” with Baang and Burne Contemporary/New York. What might be a thing of interest is I am running a contest while I am back out on the road creating more content for WOK THE DOG here starting Nov 2. Last year I spent 167+ hours on buses traveling across Central America and Colombia over 11 weeks. I will be on the road for 6 weeks traveling through Spain, Morocco, and India. Guess how many hours I will spent on buses / trains over the next 6 weeks and win an 8×8 print when I get back. You can find more details on the contest and track me on the road at my blog.
What is the one thing you feel makes your style or your work unique?
My work is always about an idea. It is a little dark, a little ironic, a little twisted but always with a sense of humor. I find a way to really connect with the subject matter but still leave room for the viewer to engage and participate. The images are a conversation that is open and on going and not a statement that is closed and complete.
if you could photograph anyone, (past/present/future), who would it be and why?
Oh this is a tough question….the first people who come to mind are legends who have influenced me a great deal. Ayn Rand, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Mark Rothko, Irving Penn, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and alike would be some of my choices for people of the past. I really would love to photograph Eddie Vedder. Marina Abromovic and Cindy Sherman.
In terms of the future, maybe it would be interesting to have the present me photograph me at 86 and days away from my death.
what’s your dream photo field trip?
A year around the world with a continual film supply send to me at strategic locations and me Fedex-ing shot film back to NYC for processing. I would love to spent a year on the road and keep on shooting the same story and never see a single frame of it until a year later after I return.
what’s your post production process?
For WOK THE DOG, I process the film when I get back stateside. Then I do a first edit and scan the first edit. A second edit happens digitally only because I can see more details and are able to compare different images side by side better. After the third edit, the selects are clean up of dust and scratches and then we take it from there in the digital format.
if you had unlimited resources to purchase any type of camera, what would it be and why?
That is like being a kid in a candy store. I would buy a lot of gear if money was no object.
who are your favorite photographers and why?
Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Sabastio Salgado.
Their work is amazing. I love Newton because he adores women and that comes through in his images in a slightly twisted way. Avedon has an interesting way of connecting to his subjects and presents them in an unexpected way. Salgado’s work is so ruthlessly human that it breaks my heart every time I look at it. Penn has this ability to melt away and allows you to see the subject matter as they are. His hand is nearly invisible yet ever so present.
what has been the shining moment of your career thus far? (or, describe your “big break”)
I cherish every little success and every little triumph. I don’t think in terms of a big career break and I am not waiting for that mythical moment of discovery where all of sudden everyone knows your name.
The moments in my career I really treasure is when I have a conversation with someone and they tell me that my work really impacted them, when they really get the work and what I am trying to achieve.
do you have any tips/tricks or advice for amateur photo nerds who are looking to shoot full time or students who are just starting out?
Think really hard on what it is that you want. A career as an artist, any type of artist is not an easy one. It takes a lot of patience, persistence and courage. If you are absolutely certain that you want to pursue a life in the arts then jump in with both feet. Do what you need to do to pay the rent but always practice your art. If you don’t then what you have is a really expensive hobby. Also remember, don’t have a plan B. If you have a plan B, it will become your plan A. Keep your eye on the goal and don’t stop until you get there.
what’s the soundtrack to your life and/or your favorite music to listen to while editing?
I like to edit to Massive Attack, VNV Nation or Pearl Jam.
best chow (meal/snack) to get you ready for a shoot? or best way to celebrate a brilliant capture?
Good food is less exciting without good friends. An okay meal could be made fantastic and unforgettable if you share it with good friends and people you love.
will you share with us one of your favorite shots? why is this your fave?
That is a tough one. Currently, one of my favorite shots from WOK THE DOG is, Once Were, San Gil, Colombia 2009. I love the light in the image and all of the negative space. The light feels like the light in a cathedral and the carcass on the hooks is the thing that is being touched by grace. It is not an easy image to love and certainly not everyone likes the image. I like images that are a little bit harder, that challenges the audiences a little.
what currently is your favorite photo by another photographer?
There really are too many to name…a couple of Salgado’s Kuwait series always takes my breath away. It is in motion yet still, it is volatile yet quiet. The tension from the dichotomy is really spectacular.
has your passion for photography changed at all since turning “pro”?
My passion for the art form itself has not changed at all. If anything being in a competitive environment where there are a lot of very talented photographers producing really amazing work makes me work harder, to constantly push myself to be better.
are you a photography nerd or a camera gangsta?
I love technology and gear but I really try to look past the gear and focus on being present. Your work is never made or unmade by your gear. I drool over gear at photo expos like everyone else but I try not to get stuck in the gear aspect of photography and focus on the magical ephemeral moments of photography.
what’s your sign? (we’re conducting a poll)