In this episode, I'm talking to Sean Tucker, a photographer in the UK who I was introduced to by an On Taking Pictures listener who emailed me and told me "you have to see this guy's work. I think it's right up your alley." He was right. Sean's work is terrific, but it was his YouTube channel — how he approaches and speaks about photography and creativity — that's what was even more up my alley. As you'll hear, Sean is honest, insughtful and the dedication he has to the craft of photography really shines through. We begin at a point in the conversation where we were talking about some of the challenges commercial photographers face working with clients, specifically when your ability as a photographer to shoot the brief seems more important than having the creativity to go beyond it.
In this episode, I'm sitting down with photographer and photography instructor Karl Taylor. I was introduced to Karl's work in 2010 when a friend gave me one of his training DVDs. Karl's energy and enthusiasm for photography along with his incredible knowledge of how to make great pictures in virtually any situation really set him as my benchmark of what photographic training should be. He also has a brilliant way of bringing a fashion style and sensibility to commercial and product photography. Karl lives in the Channel Islands between England and France, and when he came to California in 2012 for a production, I got a chance to spend some time with him and his team in Long Beach and Joshua Tree and we've been friends ever since. In this conversation, Karl and I discuss the business side of creativity. I began by asking him to talk about how changes in the industry nearly forced him to close the doors of his studio earlier this year.
There are some photographs that just stick with you. Images that once you see them, you simply can't unsee — and it happens across virtually all genres of photography. A single image, a particular project or an entire body of work seeps into our being and becomes a point of reference along an internal visual continuum. When I first saw the work of Nick Brandt, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen. His photographs taken in East Africa transcended any wildlife photography that I had seen before. Nick was somehow able to photograph the souls of these animals, not just their image or likeness. In his newest body of work, called Inherit the Dust, Nick returns to East Africa to show how habitat loss as a result of population explosion and urbanization are dramatically changing the landscape and threatening biodiversity and the continued existence of species that roamed the plains for thousands of years prior to the proliferation of man. It's a fascinating conversation and an incredibly powerful body of work.
When I was a junior in high school I took my first photography class and one of the things we had to do before we got to shoot with the "real" cameras — in our case, they were Pentax K1000s loaded with Tri-X — was to build a pinhole camera from one of the round Quaker Oats boxes. And I remember thinking how incredible it was to see the simplicity of what photography is: light and time. Not even a lens — just a strip of gaffer tape covering a tiny hole in some tinfoil. But there we all were, toting our oatmeal boxes around making pictures. Then we would go into the darkroom and print little positive contact prints from the paper negatives and I've gotta tell you, it was alchemy. For us, the pinhole camera was just a stepping stone to get to use an SLR. In this episode, I'm talking to Jon Wilkening a photographer in Philadelphia who uses pinhole as his preferred platform for communicating his creativity. For Jon, pinhole is his tool of choice for expressing his point of view. Jon calls his work "the blurry middle between photography and painting." His pictures are terrific and it all started sort of by accident.
In the last episode, I had a conversation with Glenn D'Cruze from North Atlantic Explorers, who I was introduced to by a listener of On Taking Pictures. In this episode, my guest was recommended to me by one of my favorite photographers, John Keatley. A month or so ago I reached out to John and asked if he knew anyone who he thought would be interesting for me to talk to. He responded with two names, one of whom is my guest on this episode. Whether you know Tom Deslongchamp as an illustrator, an animator or even a ninja, he's every bit an artist, both in the work that he makes and in how and why he makes it. In this episode, Tom and I talk about the importance of play, wrestling with labels and self-identification and his need to be in love with what he makes.
In this episode, I'm doing something a little different. One of the goals I've had for Process Driven from the beginning has been to expand the scope of the conversations I have beyond visual arts as an exploration into how and where creativity overlaps, regardless of the discipline. In this episode I'm sitting down with Glenn D'Cruze, a Canadian musician who records under the name North Atlantic Explorers. I was introduced to Glenn's music by a listener of my other podcast, On Taking Pictures who emailed and asked if he could send me one of Glenn's CDs. I'm so thankful that he did. My Father was a Sailor is a gorgeous atmospheric homage to Glenn's late father, who was an engineer on merchant ships in the North Atlantic during the 1950s. After his father died, Glenn embarked on a journey of his own that ultimately took him from his home in Vancouver to the seas sailed by his father nearly six decades earlier — and it all began with a pair of drum sticks and a stack of cardboard boxes.
A few months ago, I attended a talk that Dan Winters gave at the Smithsonian and one of the things that struck me straight away was the language he used to describe his relationship to his work. I've been a fan for years and own a few of his books, but I never had the opportunity to hear him speak before. There's such emotion and romance in how he relates to his work, especially in the making or the doing as he calls it. Words like "reverence" and "gratitude" are used often and as you'll hear in this conversation, these aren't simply buzzwords. They apply equally whether he's shooting a campaign for a client or walking by himself through the streets of New York with a 50mm lens and a few rolls of Tri-X. There's an incredible authenticity to Dan that seems to pervade his entire life, from the work that he does to the people and things he surrounds himself with. I asked Dan where his love of making began and how he stays connected to it 30 years in.
In 1976, William Eggleston opened his first color show at MoMA, the reviews were fairly polarized. To some of the art establishment, color photography was for snapshots and not to be taken seriously and black and white was the only true photographic art form. But while one critic called the show perfectly banal, another called it a milestone and said that after it black and white would seem slightly quaint and precious. In the 40 years since, it's almost impossible, at least for me, to imagine a photographic world without color. Don't get me wrong, I love black and white and spent years shooting only black and white but there's something to be said for the work of photographers like Fred Herzog, Steve McCurry and Saul Leiter. We see in color and when it's done right, photography can help us see our world differently through color, which is one of the things I love about the work of Ben Thomas. In Ben's series Chroma, color becomes almost a character, a necessary element to help communicate the narrative behind the work. When I first saw it, I knew I wanted to talk to him. What I found is that each series that he's done over the past several years is an exploration of composition, texture and color and it all began with a project called Cityshrinker.
I can't tell you what the first photograph that I ever saw by Gregory Crewdson was, but I do remember very clearly how it made me feel — how I connected to this world. Unlike any other photographer I can think of off the top of my head, this was instantly familiar to me. This world was familiar; the plights and the struggles that these characters seemed to be going through were very much my own. Feelings of disconnect, feelings of isolation — and feelings of hope and possibility that those feelings would pass — that they were stepping stones or bridges to something better. This work resonated with me, and still does, on a very deep level. In this conversation, Gregory and I discuss his brilliant new body of work, Cathedral of the Pines, as well as the very personal journey he had to undertake to bring it to life.
GREGORY CREWDSON The Haircut, 2014 Digital Pigment Print Image size 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs ©Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
GREGORY CREWDSON Woman at Sink, 2014 Digital Pigment Print Image size 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs ©Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
In this episode, I'm sitting down with Sam Faulkner, a photographer from the UK who for the last five years has been making portraits of reenactors for a project called Unseen Waterloo. I saw a couple images from the project at Paris Photo LA and was just blown away, so I reached out to Sam and asked if we could have a conversation about how the project came about and what inspired him to make the transition from conflict photojournalist to fine art photographer.
- NOTE: There are a couple spots in the conversation where you may notice some mic noise on Sam's end — it sounds like the shuffling of papers. There's such great conversation around it that I've attempted to minimize it as much as possible in lieu of simply removing it. I hope it's not too much of a distraction.
"I became more and more interested in...the idea of photography. Not the technique of photography, but the idea of what photography is about and the role photography plays in our visual understanding of situations or issue or an event."
All images © Sam Faulkner. Used with permission.
In 2009 when photographer David duChemin released his first book Within The Frame, the former comedian had no idea what adding author to his resume would do to his career trajectory, saying "I think sometimes other people can peg that about us before we're willing to say so about ourselves." He followed up Within the Frame with TEN, an ebook that not only inspired photographers to improve their craft without buying gear, it also helped him launch his publishing company Craft & Vision. Now, more than twenty ebooks later, David has released his eighth print book, called A Beautiful Anarchy, which eschews the genre-specific pursuit of photographic vision and instead looks to unpack the deeper levels of the creativity that drives it. In this conversation, David and I discuss how leading a creative life is about more than just making art. We also talk about motivation, intent and how we can learn to repurpose some of the fears and failures that hold each of us back into fuel to help us move forward. It’s a fascinating conversation that I’m sure you’ll love.
After his business imploded, Dalton Campbell decided he needed a change. He sold everything he owned, packed a single backpack of clothes and essentials, grabbed his camera and left for Europe without any sort of agenda, other than to take photographs until the money ran out. His three-month trip took him to Portugal, Spain, Belgium and the French Riviera and when he returned, the resulting photo series, called Travelers, helped to launch a new career as a portrait photographer. In this conversation we talk about letting go of fear, not getting dragged down by failure and the importance of being present in the moment.
A unique photographic style is one of the benchmarks of a great photographer. In 2007, Tom Hoops, was working as a web designer in Thailand, unfamiliar with names like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, or Paolo Roversi. But, after borrowing a friend’s camera one afternoon, a new creative passion emerged and, for the past six years, Tom has been refining a style and building a body of work that is both instantly recognizable and uniquely his own. His dramatic black & white portraiture and brilliant editorial work have earned him an ardent following and are increasingly in demand, particularly in the world of fashion. I got the chance to sit down with Tom to talk about how his work has evolved, the importance of shooting what you love and why he wants his photography to be like a black polo neck.
On developing a unique style: “You should shoot what you want to put on your wall… I want dramatic, dark, powerful photos. That’s what I’d like on my wall, so that’s what I want to shoot. That’s what I should be shooting.”
On staying true to yourself: “If you don’t do what is essentially you, in terms of what is your creative vision, then what you’re going to produce is going to be a bit weak.”
When asked whether photography has made him a better person: “I don’t know if it’s made me better. It has made me more observant and I think it’s made me very keenly observant about people.”