Interview with Rocco Ancora
All right, it is time to bring on board our guest. Rocco Ancora is a photographer from Australia. He has won more prizes than you could shake a stick at. Ancora, Rocco, come on out. Thanks a lot for joining us here. Great to have you here.
Thank you John. Thanks for having me.
Sit down, you brought some photos along.
Thank you, yes I did.
And so, you are in the midst of getting ready for a new class here at Creative Live.
And which class is this?
This is From Capture to Print.
And so talk real briefly about what you're going to be doing in this one.
One of the biggest dilemma today for a lot of photographers is understanding the relationship between what we capture and what we print. Printing, is pretty much something that's forgotten. I mean in the film days, we had no choice, because negatives had to be printed, but the lasting quality of the print was something that we cherished, and we still cherish today. That culture has kind of disappeared, so we'...
re trying to bring it back by taking the process from capture to print. Understanding the camera, understanding the post production aspect of a file, and then printing it, and the envelope that pretty much covers all of that is a thing that most photographers hate, but it's one of those topics that you need to learn if you're serious about your digital photography, and that's color management.
That's something that just scared off half the audience right there.
(laughing) We're gonna make it simple, real simple.
That's good, yeah 'cause it is something that not a lot of people are doing, and it's something, for anyone who's in to this as a business, can really separate you from somebody else who says, well I'll just give ya a thumb drive.
And now, you've been a photographer for a long time.
And you've got some history in printing. Talk a little bit about that. When did you start printing and how did you do that?
My career actually began in the dark room, and I was running a lab back in the mid 90s. So black and whites, color, C41 processing, A6, so, I got to learn what to do with negatives, and from that I actually became a photographer. So, learning the printing side before the actual photography side, and it sort of helped my photography because I knew how much meat I needed on a negative to get a really good print.
So you started on the backend.
I did start on the backend, yeah.
That's interesting. How did you first get into that printing gig without being a photographer?
Well photography was something I loved and I wanted originally a job as a photographer, as a photographer's assistance, but there was a lab/very, very busy portrait wedding studio in Melbourne back in the day, and they were after it, and they had their own C41 lab, and black and white, and all that, and they were looking for someone to work in that lab, so I thought, well if I do this, than it's a foot for me in the door to perhaps become a photographer, and it was, because I started learning the art of printing back then, and than from then I actually got my first photographic gig as an assistant for that studio. I then became their number six photographer, and then worked my way up the ranks, and actually ended up owning the studio and the lab that I started working for--
Wow, talk about--
...which is a bit of a romance story.
...climbing the ladder--
... number six on the list, and so this is a company that specializes in shooting weddings.
Weddings and portraits, yeah.
Okay, and then they have a bunch of, you know, photographers that are accredited or--
..they've checked out and so forth, and how long did it take you to go from, you know, your first assistant to you're the main shooter?
Years, because, put it this way, by the time I went out and shot my first wedding, I felt like I'd been to a wedding a million times, and I had as an assistant, which was a good thing, but, the problem is what's happening today is that, you know, we buy a camera today, and we want to be a professional photograper tomorrow, but nothing really substitute that very important thing called time, time and experience to be able to gauge different conditions and, you know, with weddings they're so many things that can happen in a millisecond, you know, you've got rain, you got wind, you've got people personality that you have to manage, and, yeah, so these were the things that I learned before I actually went out and shot my first frame for myself and for the studio, yeah.
Wow, so, now if you rose (mumbles) to a level of owning the business, now a lot of people could go in the direction of, well I'm gonna stop shooting, I'm just gonna do the business stuff, did you stay shooting than and how did you manage that?
I did, I stayed shooting, and we had, there was two partners, myself and another guy, and we had, we employed another four photographers. Just to give you an idea of the volume of work we used to do, we used to shoot roughly around 300 weddings a year.
So you'd have a whole series of them every weekend coming up?
We would. Like, we would probably shoot maybe six weddings a week, you know, and it's funny, 'cause when you speak to a lot of photographers today, they probably shoot 20 weddings a year, which is probably an average. We used to do six a week and about 20 a month, so it was pretty amazing. So that, sort of volume, was very hard to manage, but we had really good photographers, you know, photographers that really cared about the art of photography, and wanted to produce beautiful results, and that kind of made it easy, but the business side wasn't easy, managing that was a bit of a nightmare. So, but, yeah, it's essential skill.
Yeah, so now you're running your own personal business, do you have any photographers under you?
No, I sort of, I let that business go, so my partner then took it over, and I concentrated more on being a one on one, a more of a boutique style business. I kind of needed that just to slow my life down a little bit, but at the same time now, I've also started a post production and finite printing company, which is what I love. So, we deal with post production for a lot of photographers. We do their finite printing, we do their competition printing, which is really cool, and that keeps me in touch with that part of the technology, which is changing, but it's getting better all the time.
Now are you printing all digital, or are you doing any kind of work with chemicals anymore?
We're printing (mumbles) chemicals (mumbles), and the likes, no. We're printing all digitally, and we're printing on big Epson printers, and we're printing archival, so we specialize in archival printing, so everything we do is on beautiful, you know, cotton rag papers, and yeah, it's a lot of fun.
So I got started a long time ago, and I was developing in the dark room and stuff, and I printed digitally, and to be honest with you, I really haven't kept up with the differences. How archival are the new digital prints compared to the traditional archival chemistry prints?
I think they're pretty much on par if not better, but it all depends when we start talking archival, we start to talk about, they're a couple of different elements that need to come together for it to be archival. One of the biggest ones is of course, the paper, making sure the paper is a natural cotton fiber, that it doesn't have any optical brightening agents, and the likes. Then you have to marry that up with archival links, like the Epson K3 pigment inks, a lot of people think dye inks are archival, but dye inks aren't, so you gotta go for pigment inks, and then of course, after that, is the way you store the print, you know, if you obviously, any print that you're gonna put in full sunlight isn't gonna last 10 minutes, but you know, behind glass and framing it, and taking care of your prints, you know, you're gonna get over 200 years with the right combination, which is great. When we talk about archivables, and we talk about these magic numbers of 200 years, you know, 150 years, it doesn't mean that after 200 years your print disappears, it just means that after 200 years, there's gonna be some sort of noticeable visual difference that the print is degrading, but if you're selling your artwork, that is something that is important to you, because no one wants to buy or invest in art that's gonna fade after 10 minutes.
And these prints, they fade in a way that, like you don't notice it--
... from week to week, but you know, like, you can have someone come over to your house, and like, wow, that photo's got a little faded there. (laughing)
After a year or so. So when you are, so do you still shoot weddings?
How many weddings a year do you shoot?
Now, probably about 10 to 15.
A more manageable number.
Manageable number, so I'm very selective about what I shoot, but most of my time now goes into the post production and finite printing side of business, which is great. I love to be able to consult with photographers, especially photographers that are doing exhibitions, and bring their vision to life on massive 60 by 40 inch, you know, finite prints, and that's a real, you know, buzz for me, I love doing that.
So 60 by 40 inch prints, those are some--
...serious printing, so unless you know how you shoot, and understand your fundamentals of photography, to print a 60 by 40 inch print, it takes some real skill, because any flaws you will see. Any flaws in lighting, any flaws in focusing, you know, that's all part of it.
Okay, so I've worked with other photographers who print large, and you know, one of the things, you don't want to waste a lot of paper, and so you want to get everything shot right, you want to get it, you know, fixed in Photoshop right, or whatever program you're using, you want to make sure all your monitors are set. After all of that, you still sometimes have to print multiple prints, don't ya? Or do you get it right on the first time?
Color management, it comes down to color management, and getting to the point where what we see on the screen is what we print. Now we're using very, very high-aimed wide (mumbles) screens. The(mumbles) monitors, I'm sure you've heard of (mumbles). I know a lot of people have, because they're very expensive monitors, but we do a thing called, you know we do, obviously soft-proof the image, but we also do hardware soft-proofing, which means we monitor, our monitor is actually calibrated to a viewing condition, okay, so pretty much, we can spot on, ascertain what color that image is gonna be on that particular substrate. Custom profiling of papers is another very, very important thing, so in my printer is custom profile for a specific paper, for a specific condition, so what you see is what you're gonna get. Now, plus or minus always. I mean, if I'm gonna do a 60 x 40 inch print, I will do a test first, I will print an 8 by to make sure, you know, the turns are where they need to be, and then of course, from there, we go in to hyperspace with the massive print.