Big Folio recently interviewed me for their Artist Spotlight series. It’s humbling to be a part of this series. Previous spotlight artists include Chuck Arland, Erik Clausen, and Dan O’Day. Amazingly talented photographers. All I can say is “Wow!” Here is a reprint of the interview.
1. You are based in Vancouver, Washington, do you ever get to travel for work? If so, how often and where are some of your favorite places to go?
Traveling was one of the reasons I wanted to become a photographer. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have traveled all over the country. Lately, it’s up and down the West Coast for destination weddings. Last year I traveled to Vermont for an incredible wedding weekend and the year before that to Jackson Hole.
2. You were a musician before becoming a photographer. Do you find the two artistic fields have much in common?
As a society, we keep our memories in music and photographs. Both are touchstones to a moment in time. There are many parallels. Both require a dedication to practicing the discipline of the art. This translates into a vocabulary— a set of tools that you reach for without thinking, to express your vision. I find it interesting that so many photographers are inspired by music. Personally, I can’t imagine a world without music. There is a magic to both arts that transcends the moment.
3. When did you realize that you could make a living shooting pictures?
Ironically, when I was a musician, my day job was working as a custom printer. I printed black and white art prints, wall prints and even worked for an aerial photographer a few years. That inspired me to go back to college and get a degree in commercial advertising photography. I had been in so many bands over the years and they always ended up falling apart. I could see the writing on the wall, it was a natural progression for my artistic sensibility.
4. Was there a photographer (or anyone else) that inspired or influenced you?
When I started assisting, I was fortunate to work with some of the best photographers in the business. From Michael Grecco to Chris Cuffaro to Stéphane Sednaoui, all of them inspired and influenced me. In school, I found that I related to the work of Josef Sudek and Alfred Stieglitz. Recently, the photographer who has been a profound inspiration is David Williams from Australia. His dedication to the heart, soul and passion of photographing people has forever left its mark on the way I shoot.
5. How would you best describe your style?
Style is always a tough one to describe. For me, it’s a point of view. The voice of the artist. I watch a lot of movies and find inspiration in the way they frame the shots to the lenses used to create a feeling in the film. So many photographers come into the industry armed with an arsenal of actions and textures and camera gear, emulating everything they see that catches their eye. Somewhere along the way, you learn to trust your personal vision. This is the development of style. That point of view is always there, from the beginning. It just gets lost in the noise of inexperience. I’d like to think my style is cinematic, emotionally honest and intimate.
6. Any horror stories you’d like to share? Something bad that happened during a shoot?
I’ve heard some great horror stories that have happened to other photographers. If you do this long enough, you’re going to have a horror story. It’s just the way life is, no matter what you do. The challenge is to be prepared as much as anyone can and build in a system of checks and balances. From the way you pack your camera case to all the other rituals you develop.
However, there was a wedding back when I was shooting film with a Hasselblad. The shutters were built into the lenses. They break. It happens, but you’d never know unless you were using a flash or shooting Polaroids. At this particular wedding, I was using a long lens for my formals. We were using natural light and a reflector to light them. For the rest of the wedding, I used my normal-wide lens. A week later when I picked up my film from the lab, I was told there were 10 rolls of blank film! The shutter broke on my long lens and many of the formals portraits were lost. We were able to put together a very nice set from the 35mm images my second shooter captured during the formals of the family. In the end the album was amazing, but that was one of those moments you never forget.
7. Do you ever do any photography just for fun? If so, what are your favorite things to shoot?
Photography for fun? I love being behind the camera! However, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you became a photographer in the first place, given all the demands of running a business and staying on top of constantly changing technology. Last year, I decided to start doing art walks. Taking a day and going out with my camera and photographing whatever inspired me. I used to do this when I was in photography school. It was a great exercise and very challenging. I was very happy with the body of work that I produced and would like to do this more often. I think it’s a necessary part of practicing and developing your artistic vision. I posted three of these journeys on my blog last year.
8. Any predictions on the next big trend in the wedding photo industry?
Don’t we all wish we could predict what the next trend was, especially in this economy? Obviously, things are very tough out there for everyone. During times of recession, people return to classic styles. Look at fashion magazines and you’ll see trends in imagery that show up in wedding photography. Trends are cyclical. Eventually, everything come back in style. I think timeless black and white will make a big comeback and that’s great. My roots are in black and white film and printing. I’ve been fortunate to have that background as it gives me a sensibility for how my black and white digital images should look to emulate that classic style. Trends keep the industry fresh and that’s what makes being a wedding photographer so exciting.
9. What type of local publications or resources do you advertise in? What about international publications?
I advertise regionally with a national wedding site and locally with the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers which is an amazing group of talented wedding photographers. I have tried print advertising, but it never really works for me. Word of mouth from satisfied clients has always been the best form of advertising for me.
10. What are you working on next?
I’d like to work on a tan, and I may get that chance if the economy doesn’t start picking up soon. I recently put together a collaborative blog project called My Portland Photographer. Photographers joining together and committing to post one new image every week showcasing our unique styles. It’s a great resource for brides, wedding planners and a unique opportunity to drive traffic and bring exposure to our individual sites. Together, we are joining to elevate our profession. Other projects include a lighting workshop .
This year I’m taking a step back and evaluating my business. It goes in cycles. I have 2-3 years of creative inspiration and then I spend a year working on the business. Updating the galleries on my Big Folio web site and evaluating my pricing, products and services are the next steps for my business. I’d like to travel to Germany with my father and explore our family genealogy. You never know what life has in store. Most importantly, trust the process and continuing to strive for something.