What type of equipment and materials do you use?
Without a doubt, this is by far the most frequently asked question I hear (with the exception of “Do you need an assistant for your nude photo shoots?). Although I feel that materials and equipment are very important, they are by no means an end in themselves. They are simply tools to be used to achieve the ultimate end, the production of a fine photograph. I do, however, have no secrets about what I do or what materials and equipment I use so for those interested, this is what I do. I prefer to use large format cameras for just about everything that I shoot. My camera of choice is a 4” X 5” Linhoff Master Technika. This camera is used for all of my landscape work and my portrait work, including my newer environmental portraits. I occasionally shoot my nudes with the 4” X 5”. I typically, for the sake of the models, shoot the nudes with a medium format camera. Here my camera of choice is a Hasselblad. I use a full complement of lenses for both cameras, however, since I primarily look for details from a larger scene, I typically am using the longer lenses for most of my work. My film of choice for black and white work is exclusively T-MAX 100. I employ the Zone System in all of my work, including the nude. My film of choice for color work is Velvia, however, if I need speed I will occasionally shoot EPP 100. All black and white prints are printed on Kodak Polymax Fine Art paper. All current color work is printed using the ILFOCHROME / CIBACHROME process.
How long have you been taking pictures?
Here is another very frequently asked question, although I am not sure why. I guess that it is natural to assume that the greater number of years equates to more experience which equates to better pictures? I started taking pictures at age 15 in the tenth grade. My photography teacher was a retired staff photographer for Life Magazine and Harpers Bazaar. For reasons I can’t explain he greatly inspired me!! I began to take photography seriously and subsequently took just about every photography class I could while I went through school. The problem was that, no matter how serious I was about photography, it always seem to take a back seat to everything else in life. Pursuing two engineering degrees and an MBA while working full time left little time to do what I really wanted to do, make pictures. I thought I was serious about photography and did as much as I could considering my complex schedule, however, it was not until the spring of 1993 that I got my real direction. That spring my life radically changed because of one single event, a one week long John Sexton workshop. I could actually feel the passion well up in me during the first couple days of the workshop. And whereas I thought I was pretty passionate about photography prior to the workshop, I left the workshop literally possessed and have since burned with passion to pursue photography with all that I can give it. I consider the Spring of 1993 as the start of my current direction in photography. Almost everything that I have learned and now utilize in my photographs has been learned since the first Sexton workshop (I have since taken a second workshop with Sexton). Also, almost all of the photographs that I currently exhibit were made since 1993.
Why do you photograph so many different subjects?
I have been asked this question or a number of variations of it so many times I often feel that my responses are often somewhat defensive. The questions seem to be related to the notion that one can not become good at all things and that specializing in a specific direction will allow for the perfection of that chosen direction. Well this is certainly an arguable point, however, I do what I do for a number of reasons. First off, I love photographing everything that I do photograph. Also, if you look at my schedule and the time requirements for each type of photographic subject, it is easy to explain why I photograph the number of subjects I do. Most of the landscapes I prefer to make are taken a long distance form home. Because of this I can only make these photo trips a few times a year. This leaves a lot of the year for other types of photography. During the evenings I have time to make portraits and during the weekends I have time to produce my figure work or some of my newer environmental portraits. Since photography is half technique and half artistic expression I believe that the experience you gain in making one style of photograph is applicable to other styles.
Of all of the subjects you photographs which subjects do you like to photograph most?
In reality, for one reason or another, I actually like to photograph all subjects equally as much. There are, however, different levels of enjoyment associated with each subject. Some subjects are very enjoyable to photograph and some seem more like work. Typically I get the most enjoyment from making my newer style of portraits. I think that the personal connection involved in making these powerful and revealing portraits is very satisfying. I very much enjoy spending time with different people and photographing them is a way to do this. I rarely see making these photographs as work. After the portraits, I probably get the closest amount of enjoyment from making the landscapes I shoot in black and white. This is typically a very peaceful and satisfying experience with the result often ending up as some of the favorite photographs in my collection.
Has your work ever been published?
Yes, my work has been published a number of times. The Fresno Art Museum produced a CD rom showing the complete body of work of sculpture Robert Cremean, which included more than 130 photographs I had made of the artists work. Also, more than a dozen of the images were then used to produce two catalogs, one each for an Exhibition at the Stanislaus Art Museum and for an exhibition at the Conley Art Gallery, located on the California State University Fresno Campus. I was commissioned by the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust to shoot the cover photograph for their cookbook. This book was produced as a fund raiser in support of the Parkway. My photographs have been used for a number of other parkway publications. My photographs have been on one of the covers of the Christian Business Journal and have been printed in the catalog for the American Music Awards along with a number of other gallery and museum catalogs and publications. I am currently working on a body of work that will lead to the publication of my first photography book. The project is a multi-year effort to photograph the San Joaquin River from its headwaters at the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Sacramento Delta. The book, also a fundraiser for the San Joaquin River Parkway, is expected to be funded by the Parkway Trust.
Why do you photograph the nude?
This is a reasonable question, however, I often wonder why I am never asked the same question about my landscapes or my portraits. And in reality, the answer to the question about photographing the nude is essentially the same as for the other subjects I photograph. I enjoy it. However, let me address the nude first. I think the human form is without a doubt one of the most beautiful forms on the planet. Because of its beauty and universal appeal, the human form can also be used to make wonderful and appealing photographs. Great subject matter and universal appeal is in itself a good reason to pursue this line of photography. Then add to this the richness of people in general and the great experience involved in spending time with new and different people and you can understand why it is such a popular subject with photographers and artists. There is, however, another significant motivating factor for photographing the nude. As with the other subjects I photograph, simply producing a photograph that moves me is motivation enough. This is the primary reason I photograph each of the subjects I do. Whether it is a rock sticking out of a lake, a detail of a barn door, a nude, or a portrait, I enjoy producing photographs that make me feel good!
Do you ever need an assistant for your nude photo shoots?
Why do you not photograph more male nudes?
There are a couple reasons for this. First, it is rare that I am approached by a male model that is willing to be photographed. Second, when I advertise for models, 95% of the respondents have typically been female. And the few males that have responded seemed more interested in simply getting naked than the process of producing fine art. I will say that there are men out there that could be photographed to make exceptional images. There are a number of them that I wouldn't mind photographing myself, however, for me, photographing men is not a high enough priority to put the effort into obtaining the models. In addition to my own personal preference, the market also seems to prefer the female nude. Of all the photographs of the nude that I have sold, only one was of a male nude. Considering also that the bulk of the collectors of my nudes have been female, I feel that this speaks volumes about the universal appeal of the female form.
Why do you only photograph women with beautiful figures?
Although the majority of the figure models I have photographed have had beautiful figures, it is not true that all I photograph is beautiful women. Over the years I have photographed models of all ages and with a wide range of figure types. There is, however, a very simple reason why most nude photographers photograph women with beautify figures. The primary reason is that when you advertise for figure models, the only women that typically respond are those that are comfortable with their bodies. These women typically tend to be younger women with nice figures. So you could say that we photograph what is available to us. And in reality, can you blame the photographers? Who would not want to spend some time photographing beautiful women?
Who are your models and where do you get them?
When I first started photographing the nude, most of the models I used were friends that liked my work and felt comfortable with me. Almost without exception, these women had never modeled before, especially nude. Now that my work and my reputation are becoming fairly well established in the Central Valley it is not very difficult to find nude models. In fact, at my exhibitions, I am fairly frequently approached by women that would like to volunteer their services. And it even gets better, on a number of occasions I have been asked, "How much would you charge to make a nude photograph of me??" Considering how difficult it was to get those first few models this sure makes searching for models a lot easier!