How to Think Like an Artist
All right, so we started out day one with lighting take the mystery out of lighting, then we brought a subject in sports scenario. Then we, um, did photoshopped brought that in? Did a composite kind of showed you the joel grimes magic in photo shop? And then day two, we brought a beauty fashion in a girl that we did, uh, sort of skin retouching on, and then I did what marketing, er, surviving the marketplace, pricy, negotiating all that. So now we're doing what I called sort of like the creative, you know, inspiration, part of it, and so, like I did with the lighting, the photo shop and all that is I want to make it and break it down to what I call this simple building blocks, and the good news is I'm a simple guy, and so when I get through teaching, whatever it is, I want you the audience to say, that makes sense, I could do that, I can't wait to get out, I can't wait to explore and so that's my goal, my goal is to inspire, and we talked about this on day one is that if I tried to imp...
ress you, there's a limit in fact, some of you may go, you didn't even impressed me from day one, but what impressing if you look at my work, hopefully you say I like your work or whatever, you respond to it, but what I want is to inspire so that's what today's all about and the goal is to sort of get you to rethink about your definitions rethink about what makes you tick in terms of this whole photography, a thing, and so it could be a little painful, meaning, anytime you kind of re evaluate the foundation, you stand on and then you think maybe I didn't have the best perspective something's hold me back, I guess that's what I'm saying something's holding you back, and I want to see if we can maybe figure out what that isthe and so that's, what I love about this session is that I kind of read get you to think differently. So the question that I've always when I start teaching is, where do I start? How do I build, you know, how do I how do I begin the process of building? And so, um, you know, I was involved in sports and I shared this and I don't think I shared in the last two days, but I wasn't gymnastics, and when I got recruited gymnastics as a freshman in high school, I wanted to get on the bars right away, and so I was all excited and but the coach was like no you have the number one we have to learn to stretch you know get limber and then the first thing we did was lerner forward roll so you think less easy forward roll you ever had a brick try to roll it's not very smooth is it so I had to learn to be smooth on that forward roll so we had to practice it over and over again I'm like I'm looking at the bars I want it on the bars nope not until you learn how to have a smooth forward roll because eventually you're getting on the bars and you're gonna have to do some results on flips and all that stuff so learned the basics and then build from there so that makes sense right so what are the basics and how do we build on top and where do we start? Well the first thing that I want to say is that how we define the photographic process or how we view ourselves will drastically in flu it's the final outcome of our work so we all have different ways we view ourselves and we have definitions so if I'm working side by side with you john and I say hand me the ratchet we're building something and you hand me a pair of pliers we got problem so we need to have the same definitions of what things are well that's hard because everyone's got a whole different, you know, upbringings we got cultural differences we got you know, all these things that influence how we think and what we how we define things but I could say this that weaken standard fallen by our definitions so definition is important and so sometimes it's good to go back and say, do I have the right to definition here, let me rethink my definitions and a lot of times it's when you get with other photographers or other people and you start talking about things you ever gotten conversation about politics oh my goodness, you have different points of views so we all have different points of views but definitions are important and so what I want to do is if I am gonna challenge you with definitions and I hope that in the end it kind of rocks you. And if you don't agree with me it's okay, you don't have to agree with me, but if I get you to think that's good, so that's a lot of times when I get into a conversation with someone, I don't agree with them I walk away and go never really thought about that point of view and then maybe over time I might come to their their side or they may come to my side hopefully win them over, but uh all right, so we started out when you guys introduce yourself we talked about the creative and the technical right? So is photography a technical process or is it a creative process and which is or plays the most important role? So that's a question right now? Um todd you said you're more of an engineer I decided you know, thinking way as true we are born differently I have four boys they came from the same mother great raised in the same house and they all think a little differently and so that's life so just by our inherent I guess what's in our dna we could be there a little bit more to the technical side of things and more to the creative side of things and so um that again his personality but when it comes to photography we I would say that probably the best scenario is when you have a blend of to write and again um if you say I'm more of an engineer minded technical person, you could say I need to work on the creative side and if you're the opposite you say I'm really creative but I don't know what the heck I'm doing so let me sit down and discipline myself to learn the technical skills so you could bring that up and so so they both play an important role however, when I started out in photography, I actually went through the fine arts I got a degree in the university of arizona and at the time I had friends that were going to like technical schools in photography paid lots of money I don't have the money to do that and so I always thought, well, maybe I'm getting a not so great of an education and um but as I look back now at my education there were some things that I learned in that program art history was one of them um that influence me today and I think one of the things was is that they did it they did promote maur the creative process I was wanting all this technical stuff, right? But here's, what happens if I go out today and I listened to a lot of photographer speak and when I look at the book rex you know, what's out there you would say that for the most part, as a general rule photographers seemed to be more assessed with equipment techniques and they overlooked the creative process so as a general were swayed by equipment gear, right techniques and I'm guilty of that I like oh, how how's that how'd that photographer do that I want to get in there and figure it out? And so as I began to teach, I thought, okay, what do I have to offer? And I do have a lot of techniques, but I thought I'm going to and because I have a passion for the creative process, I'm going to try to emphasize that creative process a little bit more when I speak and a lot of times when I speak and today if you're listening um you may say get to the technical part of it joel we did that kind of a little bit on the last two days um so people want techniques but here's what I'm gonna tell you right now if I were say if I had fifteen minutes with you and you said joel gave me the most important things as you can to help me go to the next level I would probably not attack one thing about a technique it would be emphasizing encouraging you to move on from the creative side of things I believe that's a thousand times more important than learning techniques and so that's what I would do today now again, as I last couple days I've been talking I've snuck in a few things like I mean an artist and all that because I just can't help it when I'm even when I'm talking about techniques um and you saw when I talked about lighting there was no math, no flash meter no history graham no lighting ratios again I want you to even in a technical to be thinking more like an artist and so that's important to me I believe that's going to take you further then just learning techniques so um but we are has a general group we like cameras and techniques and goodies we like gadgets right that fits our sort of our human the humanity side of us I like nice things and I if you pet the pay a lot of money you think it's you know worth more right he's going to help you more? Um so, um when it comes to equipment um I remember one time I bought this lens it was I was doing four by five miles I five by seven camera but it was a four by five back and I was doing portrait ce and I went in the camera store and they're in the case was a, um three hundred millimeter rodent stock apple five point six blends and at the time that was about a three thousand dollar lands for for a view camera that was that was a big chunk of money and remember kind of like drooling on the counter you know wow, I wish I had that lens so I finally talk to my wife in tow let me buy it I brought it home and I had my four by five set up and you don't put it on I put the lens board on and put it on there and looking at it that's amazing and so eventually my wife with the bed she she calls out she says come in a bad I said, hey man, I'm working on that lands drooling on it whatever you know and you know time went by and she's you joel you coming a bad taking you so long and finally I said he's she yells out I plan on sleeping with that lens I mean, I was so enamored with that lens I mean, I was like, you know, it was amazing and and that's it that we get we get caught up in that and it's so don't feel bad if when you order a new lens or you go to the store and get a new lens you can't wait to get it on your camera that's just fun and so that's being part of being a photographer and stuff so here's what we can say without the creative process the most technically proficient photograph on the planet could be a complete bore and sometimes you look at a photograph and you go well everything's technically correct but you know what? It's boring, right? So how many of us in here want to create boring pictures? No way what pictures that have impact pictures that rock right? So, um that's the challenge we have and when I was in art school because they emphasized the creative process a little bit more than the technical, there would be some people that would bring a photograph in out of focus you know, back in those days when you did a dark room you had to spot your prince right? Because it does but there'll be spots all over her hair hanging down from the you know, the larger they didn't clean it off and then they put it up you go you know? Okay, uh where do we begin on this picture, right? But it might have had a good kind of a creative side to it, right? And I think when when when I was also study photography there was this thing about the american photographers everything was sharp fine grain, you know, and there's some of the european photographers were like hi grain soft you know, images had limited more, you know, a dreamy mood to it right? Because they were like, looking at the emotional side of things so again that's just the way things play out but what we don't want is boring pictures we want exciting pictures and what pictures that rock and so um that's I hope the goal for all of us that we want increase our skill but here's an interesting that have things that happened now I've been doing this a long time I actually my first, um roll of film I process or the first photo shop our photo class that I had I was a freshman in high school so what is that? Nineteen seventy two oh my gosh, I think they're somewhere on there yeah nineteen seventy two um and I have so much fun doing in the dark room learning that process and all that but there's an interesting thing in anything that happened from the time I went through high school to the time went through all my college and into the eighties and nineties whatever is that? Um photography was often defined by the equipment that we used so let me let me read this slide for you if you let photography be defined by the technical process you were then obligated to work within the boundaries set by that definition so let me explain what I'm talking about here so I was well I wanted to be what I did I shot landscapes I wanted to be and the latins junior I mean ansel adams was my hero, right? So as a landscape photographer and I wanted to be like as a lotta me's what kind of camera did I use the camera right. So if I said I was a serious landscape photographer and had a thirty five millimeter camera around my neck you go, dude, come on, get with the program, get a few camera right if you're a photojournalist and you were serious about your craft and you had uh thirty five millimeter camera around your neck back in those days nikon nikon's andan acrobats um cannon pentax had some good cameras in those days and so they're kind of you know back in those you pick him until you're like solid metal cameras but if you walked in with a camera like that you were cool you know? Hey, I'm a photo journalist but what camera set you apart from just a basic single lens reflects what camera would make you take you to the next level and the photo journalism rail I would like a uh like a range finder. Okay, now why is that? Well, because henry carter basan the decisive moment shooting the street photographer and and what what a range finder did is that always there is no mirror went and so you're looking through the lens and there was no I mean with a thirty five millimeter single in sprint reflection you would go pop up and there's a point where blacks out right and a range finder there's no mirror right? So you always watching what's going on click it's real quiet click and in a lot of times the there was a space between where the actual lens saw and so you could see someone coming into the frame before they entered into the area where you were actually taking the picture so if you had a like you were ultra cool you were ultra serious, it costs more money to there are more expensive and so, here's, what happened? I lived in this world, so I'm a landscape photographer. I go and work my little butt off, get enough money to buy a four by five camera, and I think I'm pretty hot stuff. I'm at the grand canyon, I'm shooting my picture, and people come along that whoa, your professional, because I got this big old view camera I look good just puffed up, and then some guy comes up and he said seven, eight by ten and you're like, and then everybody goes over to that person. Dude, you must be really good. You got an eight by ten and then someone comes up and sets up of eleven by fourteen trump's him that's, the world I lived in. So your camera defined you. I mean, my wife went to the space needle. We're on top of that. You know, I have the cannon five d mark three with a fairly long winds with a speed light on top. And a gal next to me said he must be a professional. You look good. Yeah, looking good. So so it all comes down to money. You know, you have a lot of money and buy a lot equipment. You're good. Uh, one time I was was doing a commercial shoot and I had my assistance with me I had a bill cart we had a stack to the mean like the cart was like wobbling down into the pushing into this building and the guy lets me and he says that's it I want it that's it that's all you got that's all your equipment and usually when I show up people go wow that's a lot of equipment you know you must be really good this guy said that's it and I'm center scratching my head a little bit I thought I go I don't understand what you mean that's it goes the last photographer had two carts full of gear he was really good they're like so you know you just kind of got you feel like you want to shrink down a little bit but we knew that we know we have a lot of gear you think you look better you know? So I always say if you don't if you wanna look like a professional get a bigger modifier, get a bigger lens, get bigger or whatever but that's the world we live in and so it didn't stop there here's what was I mean I'm serious this was a crazy time period in history so in the fine art world if you win animated ah print in a dark room and you're using a larger that was okay as a kind of you have the print but if you contact printed your negative one toe one there were ah whole group of photographers that were contact printers so if the view came along with a print that was made in a larger me you weren't cool contact brenner's orbital prints were better didn't stop there if you had imprinted on play a platinum plated imprinting process which took you like three days to get one print you were like at the top of the pyramid ultimate you know serious photographer and they had galleries that were just you could on lee submit platinum palladium prints to get in and so one time I went to one of those galleries that walked in and walked around and went boring boring, boring, boring, boring, boring all those images that I saw tell me we're boring but they were platinum plating prince and that was well how they got in not the content the process I lived under that world for a long time and we still have a little bit but digital actually kind of broke down the walls of that but we need to have today we have people come in I'll talk to people they say oh you shoot digital michael yeah I shoot film like really yeah I'm a true pure photographer I'm I'm the real deal it's like well yeah look atyou content what you're content and so we still have a little bit today but the point is is if you define yourself by the camera and the process. You were obligated to work within that process you can't venture out so let's sama contact printer platinum played him. I've built my whole look on it my whole career on it. And one day I realized my pictures are a bore. Nice, you know, jump ship. I built this whole reputation. Um, so this morning around the breakfast we're talking about, um I think those beards or whatever but zee zee top? Yeah, the long beard, right? And so I like zee top that my first concert I ever went to in high school was easy top and, uh uh, anyways, their identity trademark was the bears are two of the front guys and they were cool man named guitars it spun around. Now today, I think they're getting close to seventy. They still have the beard, right? That's their thing it's hard to let go of that beard, right? In fact, they were offered a couple million dollars it for for a shaving commercial and take him off. You know that kind of a cool thing, but that's their trademark and once you kind of establish a trademark it's hard to get out of it, so be very careful where you plant your or hang your hat if that's your thing and it's not I'm not I'm here's what I'm saying it's not a bad thing to stick with something and say here's what I'm doing I'm just saying be careful is not on a piece of equipment or a technical process because and it's really difficult to move from there because you built your whole look on it and so that's why I say um it's more important toe look at what's the content now how you get what the tools you've got tools come ago that's why when the digital revolution came along um there was a lot of debate going on right it was painful even for me I love film I look I kind of went into digital kicking a screaming why don't why don't I need to get the film I loved him and so um here's what happened if we tried teo define the photographic process um by our tools and stuff were fuller's forced to debate things like at what point does a photograph ceased to become the photograph and become an illustration so here's what happened to me so once I got into digital and I started doing composites oh my goodness do you think I just you know I don't know it's just I got so much grief from my friends uh people that sort of follow me on you know, on the internet and I got I got hate mail saying that now I was no longer photographer I, uh, was an illustrator, so I would start to debate I was I would, you know, sit there for an hour type of email to someone that you know and explain lands aladdin's, you know, he went in the dark room, he manipulated, you know, when you change ah, lens that changes perspective that's manipulating when you take a filter on the lens, that's changing things, what's the difference between warming up a photograph in the camera versus mormon end up in a photo shop, so I went through all this debate I mean, it was a year of literally non stop debating that warm out, I got so exhausted and I kept plowing ahead, but, you know, I just felt like, well, you know, I hadn't defended and here's an interesting thing if you go down a path that safe, you don't have to defend yourself, right? That's fine kind of safe, right? But if you take a risk, you gotta defend it, so I would say in some ways, if you don't have to defend what you're doing, you're not on the right path. We'll talk about that little bit more later, but so he was really good for me tohave to defend what I was doing because I had to re shape my mindset of what and who I am so we started out member definitions so what is a photographer how do you define a photographer? Well, if you have ten people you get ten different definitions so if you draw a line of sand on campus politics religion, parenting whatever it is that you say this is how I gonna raise my kids there's gonna be someone on the left of you there's gonna be someone on the right of you there's always gonna be someone that has either, uh more radical view on maybe a conservative side or a liberal or whatever it is there's always someone on either side of you no matter and here's the other thing over time what happens we change your views don't wait you know what I raised my kids you know it's pretty strict and later I realized and maybe I'm being a little too strict with these kids you know, I let up a little bit you know um but so we changed our view over time we grow we mature new information is given to us so we change our where are you? We draw the line so the line moves but here's the thing we all have a hard time finding someone exactly where we're at it's a hard thing sometimes you do hey hey, I got a buddy now we think the same but but most of time if we got in a conversation we probably not agree hundred percent but how do we define a photographer so I sat down and I worked on that one for a long time what will you have ah contraption that captures light and you use a lens blah blah blah blah wait a minute what about a pinhole photographer? No technical there's no glass just the whole I guess is a lens capturing light ok, let me read to find out what a photographer is and started working on it working on it work well one day um uh something happened to me the heavens opened up the light struck me and I had an inspiration and it changed my life literally completely transform my life and that was this ultimately I am an artist with a set of tools to fulfill my vision tools techniques and that I was not by definition a photographer oh my gosh shattered twenty five years of me being a photographer sit on airplane what do you do? I'm a photographer I like that I'm a photographer I like that it's a cool thing with tarver well but if I'm a photographer what do I have to do? I have to defend that definition but nobody agrees it's a very hard thing to do and so I said I'm an artist I happen to use a camera tools like photo shop and I put together my vision as an artist the chains fell off of me it was like the burden of trying to explain what I was doing kind of fell by its way side a little bit and I realize wait a minute, I'm an artist well, I knew that all along because I went through art school and all that to some degree, but ultimately eight trumped me being a photographer it went up a notch and so, um, that literally that mindset literally transformed me and so now number one, I didn't have to find my tools defending me defend the tools and so if someone said, oh you're an illustrator because you're doing composites, you're no longer a photographer and I say no, I'm not a photographer. Well, you're not norman artist really in the story I didn't argue anymore I did the right big, long letters of people that would explain why I am an artist period in the story now you may not like my art because that's a choice in subjective, but now it does that there's no where to go from there? I don't like your arc that's it, but if you say I'm a photographer and then you start to finding that what you do tools film, digital, what size camera, what kind of lens? How you've manipulated in a little shop, then it's like exhausting so it was like a burden lifted off me and I felt like I was let in the way set free from jail the chains let an all sudden I became free to do what I wanted to do and my work exploded it exploded and so that's what I want you to do is to re think about who you are and do you want to be a technician no one be an artist that's what you really want, we'll talk about that so emphasizing the creative process questions a question came up from giddy who says who says but isn't artist one of the most argued definitions my experience is that the art world goes up at arms about defining who is an artist wouldn't it be better to simply call yourself an image maker? Okay, well, good question because we're going to go find art coming up sweet perfect timing, any comments from you guys? What do you think? So what do you tell people when you're on a plane now? Well, that's a good thing because if I say I'm an artist brought maybe doesn't give a lot of definition writer and information, so I would say still I get caught saying I'm a photographer but now a long time to say, well, I'm an artist that happens use a cameras, one of my tools to create and photo shop or whatever it's kind of fun but yeah, it is kind of hard, but when it comes to the photographic world community, I am very vocal about saying I am an artist and we're gonna get into that more for me there is a third definition of what I do because I am a photograph for you after this I'll probably be an artist as well, but for me the creative processes is making since I photograph people all the time, the experience off being photographed by me is part of me and I identify me as a photograph for so so I'm kind of I'm putting a lot of them myself into the process of making people satisfied with the whole process off taking the picture so they can relax and all that so it's not in it's the process of being photographed by me then is defying me as a photograph or artist or whatever as well, not the end product okay, good and we're going to talk about that in fact yes, we'll touch on that I think mawr in a minute robin I can definitely relate with what he's saying and how you put it um we're thinking about yourself as an artist rather than defining it more because I feel like, um there so many rules with photography he not only in how you you know, work with the models and your clients but also composition and the lighting and they're so many different rules that you can try and follow, and so oftentimes that can make you feel a little bit trapped and don't hear work. We'll talk more about that being not being bound by the rules and have the freedom to express remember back in the day when when I was a youngster, we had this thing in our high school called commercial art and you became a commercial artist. Andi, I imagine that this is something that you embrace, like it's even though you're doing you do your commercial work, you still bring that artistic element to to those images? Yes, way we touched on that a little bit that when I'm in on set with a client, ok, we talked about this that who is the most important person in the room? Me now? Why now? Wait and you know, it was hard for me to say that because actually I think and if you know me, I'm not I don't blow my horn a lot, I'm not like I'm the greatest, but a reason why I say that is because, yes, we have a subject it could be a hundred million dollars athlete and that person's pretty important price thought the entourage that comes in, but if I'm there and a client hired me to produce a photograph and its age old grimes look then I have to deliver that joel grimes look and so if a client starts to take me down a path that doesn't give me the opportunity to be me the artist to create the image that I've been hired to dio then it destroys the whole thing so I don't go throwing things across the set I don't stop up down say a lot of the most important there's in his room but I say to them look you hired me did to achieve a certain look let me have that freedom now they're always gonna be compromises and with it work with client okay it's always me some compromises but ultimately I have to say the pressure's on for me to give you what you hired me to do so let me be me and fulfill that vision and again in a very polite way and if you've I don't think you can be my assistant will tell you and hope for the client will tell you I don't go throwing I don't I don't throw a fit I just sometimes I have to say just give me a little bit of time here I'm going to get I believe a really good shot for you so um todd but in that restriction and we've all have clients that we have to work for it does hamstringing a little bit in when that plan comes to you and says here's what I want you to say I'm not your guy I've done it that's hard I've done it and I've turned down a big chunk of money saying you know what? Really I'm not the person that you need for this project because what's gonna happen is I'm going to put in that position and I'm not gonna feel very good about creating an image because I'm doing something that's out of my comfort zone or not necessary comfort zone but what I just don't have a desire to dio I shot food once for a client a food with the hot food stylist took eight hours to do one picture I was sick at the end of the day because I couldn't it was like torture for me to do it and so there's some things I just say I can't do that no I'm not gonna do it so you have a shit I just wanted to read a comment that I thought was interesting and this is from chris with camera who's in the lounge and said I think one of the merits and calling herself an artist instead of a photographer is that when you say artist people know they should ask questions rather than make assumptions because furious right and often if you call yourself a photographer people will just assume they are understand exactly what you d'oh very good, very good sometimes that's a good that's a good way to looking at yeah and so if I salmon artist, someone says, what kind of work do you do? What's, your what's, your and then it may open a great dialogue, but if you have another photographer and or someone who knows a little about photography and you say, I'm a photographer, and then you start talking about that, and then your definitions don't match up. And then, pretty soon it's, like, um, but that's, very good. I like that. I like that, so thank you for that.