Benjamin Von Wong at the Intersection of Fantasy and Photography
My guest today is Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong. Now I have already called him a photographer, a marketing genius and an artist. I believe he is all of those things and more. On his website he describes himself as an Artist focused on amplifying positive Impact.
Listen closely – you are about to take a deep dive into the mind and career of a brilliant creator.
– The Art: https://www.vonwong.com
– The Unforgettable Campaigns: https://www.unforgettablelabs.com
– The Gram: https://www.instagram.com/vonwong
– The Podcast: https://www.impacteverywhere.org
– Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iintrigue
How many photographers do you know who hold the Guinness book of records for the largest plastic sculpture made from reclaimed plastic, including 168,037 straws. This week, I’m going to chat with an incredibly talented artist photographer and marketing genius whose work is guided by a social and environmental compass. Mr. Benjamin Von Wong stay tuned.
You’re listening to the TOGCHAT, Photography Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the house and WHYS behind creating consistently great photographs. Here’s your host, Joe Edelman
This is episode number 238 of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. Thanks for joining me. I’m your host, Joe Edelman and my mission is to help photographers like you to develop a better understanding of the HOWS and WHYS behind great photography. This episode was recorded. Live on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021. The TOGCHAT Photography Livestream can be viewed live on YouTube every Wednesday evening at 6:00 PM. Eastern time. If you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel yet, please do. You can find the link to the channel and all my social profiles in the show notes or visit my website. www.joeedelman.com. And if you’re listening on iTunes or any other platform that allows reviews, please leave a few positive notes to help other photographers find out about the show. Remember photography is not a competition. It is a passion to be shared.
Next up is a TOGCHAT exclusive interview.
My guest today is Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong. Now, I’ve already called him a photographer, a marketing genius and an artist. I believe he is all of those things and more on his website. He describes himself as an artist focused on amplifying positive impact. Benjamin Von Wong’s work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines. Everyday objects was shocking statistics. It is attracted the attention of corporations like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike, and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste and fashion pollution. Most recently he was named one of Adweek’s 11 content branded masterminds, and he is also the host of the impact everywhere podcast listen closely. You are about to take a deep dive into the mind and career of a brilliant creator. So let’s get right into it. Benjamin. I have to thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk with me.
Thanks for having me, man. Glad to be here.
I’m honestly overwhelmed by what you do. And you’re kind of a rock star in my book, but I’m not talking about just your photography. So for those folks that may not have heard your name and seen the incredible projects that you’ve worked on. Could you please just take a minute and introduce yourself to my audience? I know you don’t like to call yourself a photographer, so I don’t want to use the labels. I want to let you label yourself.
It’s actually really, really hard to do, but let’s give it a shot. The work that I create lives on the intersection of fantasy and impact I create. Art that that looks like it’s Photoshopped. The purpose of the art that I create is to ignite conversations around different social issues that are, that are important in the world today. The work that I’ve created has generated over a hundred million views for different causes, like fast fashion, ocean plastics, electronic waste. And I do a little bit of everything. I’m a little bit of a one man agency from the. Pre production, the production, the shooting, the editing, the marketing, the press kits, the launches, the video editing. Like I do a little bit of it all and I find it really, really difficult to put what I do in words.
That’s understandable because there really are so many layers to your work. One of the things that really stands out to me, when I look at your body of work, You clearly have an underlying social and environmental compass to the work that you do, which I think is very admirable. But if we can strip it down to just your photography for a minute, tell me about your path in photography. How did you get started? And for that matter, what got you started?
Yeah, so. Uh, it’s, it’s a pretty long story because I’ve now been doing this for a decade. So I’m getting old. The story used to be a lot shorter, but I studied as a hard rock mining engineer. So I don’t have a, you know, academic background in photography. I studied hard rock mining engineering. And when I was on one of my work terms in Winnemucca, Nevada, which is about an hour away from black rock city, which is burning man. So super in the middle of nowhere. A girl broke up with me and I needed to find a way to keep myself busy. And I just thought, you know what, I’m going to buy a camera. I’m going to learn how to take pictures of the stars. So that’s how I got into art basically. And photography was something I did on the evenings and weekends. It was, it was fun. It was enjoyable. It was pleasant. Uh, it was sort of an all access pass. I could go backstage. I could make friends, I could talk to people because I had this. I guess this device that just gave me some reason to ignite conversations with people. And over time, I kind of went through the whole event, route the wedding routes, portrait routes. And then eventually just started realizing that what I really loved was creating these fantastical images, these productions, if you will, of cool things, just things like special effects and, and, and dancers and stunt people and things like that. In 2012, I decided to quit my day job. And it wasn’t because I wanted to become an artist. It was sort of never the goal. I just realized one day that I didn’t want to be an engineer for the rest of my life. So I woke up and I was like, if I don’t. Like, I don’t know what to do with my life, but in 10 years, if I don’t do something now I’m going to be at a bigger desk, earning a little bit more money, doing something that I really still don’t care about. And so I decided to quit and I just wanted to travel, but it turns out that photography is the easiest way to travel. I could, I could give, I could offer to teach a workshop to a photo club and that would get me like a free plane ticket. And then I would do this workshop and I’d make a bunch of friends. And now I had a bunch of sofas to sleep on and a bunch of people to collaborate with. And it could just hang out there until the next opportunity came to speak at another conference or another workshop. And they just kind of bounced around from that point forward. And this is like early days, 2012, and I was. You know, this is when F stoppers just started coming out onto the playing field. You know, I was making behind the scenes videos and I was consistently getting featured on F-Stoppers, DIY Photography, SLR lounge, and then eventually PetaPixel. And that visibility just gave me enough traction to keep going. And I think so much of art is about just, just not necessarily thriving, but just. Keeping your head above water for long enough to find your path. Right. And I think slowly but surely I started to become a little bit more interested in this idea of a career. I wanted to see whether I could make it. There’s sort of this dream that. All creatives, I think have, which is to get paid, to do what you do best and to be recognized for what you do. And I had that goal too. And so I stumbled into the commercial photography world. I really wanted to find ways to stand out because I didn’t want to just create, I didn’t want to be a technician. I wanted to be an artist. I think there’s a slight difference there. And, and I, and I got there pretty quickly. I think by 2015, I was shooting a global campaign for Huawei. And in this one campaign, I earned more money than my entire career combined at that point, because it was one of those global licensing gigs. And it was just massive, massive, massive, massive. And when I got to the top of that mountain, I was like, wait, is this it is, is this. Is this all there is like, what do I do next? I just get a bigger client with, to do this, to do a bigger project, earn more money. And it just felt like a very, it didn’t, it didn’t feel like all that was cut out to be. You just spent a lot more time in meetings, a lot more time talking to people and you spend a lot, you have a lot of restrictions. Like people think that the more money you have, the more options you have, but it’s actually the more money you have, the more liability you have, the more risk averse people tend to be. And so it, I don’t know it and it felt. It felt like earning money for money’s sake. And I didn’t know where it was going to head like there, the pathway forward at that point, wasn’t clear. And I started to think about all the different projects that I had done that I was most proud of. And they’re invariably, all the projects that were around impact around making a difference in other people’s lives that. I personally resonated with the most. And one example of that would be a video that I had made in 2014 for a little girl who was dying of a terminal degenerative brain disease. And this family reached out to me, they’re complete strangers and just said like, Hey, we saw that you can make things go viral. Our daughter’s dying. And we were wondering if you could help us make a fundraising video to fundraise for cure. And I was like, Oh cool. I’m going to fly over and state on their sofa. Made a video. And within a month it raised a million dollars. By the end of the year, it became the most funded campaign on GoFund me in the history of the platform at $2 million. And out of the ashes of that, like an entire foundation was born and it was just like, wow, this is like, I want to do projects like this. Like, this is what storytelling and our in creativity should be used for. And so, you know, by the end of 2015, I was like, okay, I’m going to quit photography. And I’m going to move into documentary filmmaking. Um, because I was like, this is how you make a difference. I have to doing it for a little while. I realized actually like telling depressing stories all the time of charities that need help is just like, not really that fun. Um, I don’t, I don’t think it really like scratches the itch and of creativity that I kind of had. And so then sort of embarked on this mission to figure out how to combine the two. So combining fantasy and an impact was not really obvious. I think when we think of impact, we think of really like grimy, sad images. And so I just kind of had to, I bumbled around, I basically told myself I am not going to take any project creative paid or unpaid that doesn’t have some kind of angle to it with impact. And so I just, I tried, I tried, I failed, I knocked on doors. I got rejected and eventually stumbled into environmental projects. Most probably because my girlfriend is, was more of a hippie than I am. I think I’ve overtaken her a little bit now. Um, not that it’s a competition, but you know, the first project that we did together, she recommended that I use storms as a metaphor for climate change. And it was just an excuse to go storm chasing really. But as a result of doing that project, you know, you can’t just talk about a problem. You have to understand it. So I was watching a bunch of documentaries. And it’s like, you know, climate change is an issue, but, but how much do you really know how much, I mean, how much attention did you really spend looking at it? So we, we see things, but we don’t really look at them. And, and I think that’s when things, you know, I just got sucked down that rabbit hole, you know, one project led to another and the more I. Paid attention. The more I learned and the more I couldn’t turn away. And that’s sort of how my work has slowly grown and been influenced over time.
You seem like an eternal student, which clearly fuels and motivates a lot of what you do. So I want to back up just a bit, listening to your story. It becomes pretty obvious that you’re not really afraid to take chances and go in a completely different direction with your life. Do you ever find yourself questioning those decisions? And if you did question your decision. How would you work through that? I think that a lot of people are, are afraid of taking chances, especially taking that first big step away from the day gig.
That’s a great question. I think that my self doubt is omnipresent. Like it never goes away. However, it isn’t tinge with regret. Does that make sense? So I still don’t know where I’m going, what I’m doing and how it’s all going to work out and whether or not I’m making the right decisions in the present. But I don’t really tend to look to the past and go like, Oh, I should have done X or Y or I should have done, you know, what would life have been if I had taken this other path I’m most excited when I feel a sense of alignment when I feel on the edge of possibility. I think when you, when you see kind of, let’s say, let’s say, and I think everyone has these, like these, the beginnings of an epiphany, you kind of start to see how your life might just make sense. And it’s like the sparkling light off in the distance. And then you start running towards ed and then the closer you get, the more you realize it was probably a terrible idea because you didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be all along the way, but that light is still kind of there. So you just keep going and you don’t really question like, well, why did I walk towards it in the first place? Cause it was there and it was a learning and it was interesting and you were following something and, and, and in that moment, that thing was true, right? So it’s, it’s not tinges with regret, but there is always a question of like, well, Based on what I’ve learned so far, what do I do next? And of course the experiences you’ve had in that journey will slowly kind of influence your confidence, your, you know, your, your abilities, your decisions, and so on and so forth. Did I kind of answered that question or was that too philosophical?
Not at all. That’s a great answer. If I can ask you one more question about your backstory. I hear a lot from young and new photographers who have gone down the traditional path, doing portraits, doing weddings, and they feel stuck for you along comes this big commercial job that sets you off in a new direction, because it gives you an awareness of how much you can make. How did you get that job? It seems to stump a lot of photographers, how to go from doing the grind of portraits and weddings. To shooting those big commercial projects. What did it for you? Was it luck and acquaintance? How did that first big job?
Mm there’s always luck, but luck is also designed, right. And in some capacity. So if you are shooting weddings and portraits your entire life, and that’s the work you’re putting out and that’s what you Excel at. And you’re hoping to transition to shooting. I don’t know. The Superbowl luck is not going to favor you. I mean, what are the chances that someone sees a baby portrait and goes like, Oh wow, this guy is going to have potential shooting the super bowl. So what you put out into the world and how you tell the story of who you are and what are you creating and what you want to do will influence the kind of luck that comes in. I have always gravitated towards doing things that nobody else was doing. Partially. I think it’s how I grew up. I just always wanted to stand out as a kid. I want it to be louder than the others. I was always the weirdest person in the room and, and I think that’s a characteristic trait that, that I kind of unconsciously kept with me, but it really solidified after I met chase drivers, I think in 2012 or 2013, where. After convincing him to look at my portfolio for a little while he, he gave, he gave me back my, my work and said, you need to figure out what the one thing in the world you can do better than anyone else’s. And from that point forward, you’ll never have to worry about money ever again. Now I don’t think that’s entirely true. It hasn’t been in my case, the money certain has certain ha certainly hasn’t been automatic. However, when you create work that no one else is doing, it means that when somebody wants. Exactly that you can ask for a lot more money. Right. But if anyone else could do it, then you can’t ask for as much because you have less negotiation power. Now it also means that people are less likely to search for the work that you’re doing, because they don’t even know it exists. So it comes with a little bit of a trade-off right. I think for you too. Be discovered and for luck to favor you, not only do you need to do good work, you need to do good work. That is discoverable. And so somewhere in that lies a balance of good discoverable in alignment with what you actually want to do, what you care about. And, you know, when I discovered that the commercial photography will then, and this might be, I think this is changing now, but back in 2010, and I think it was even more so back in like the two thousands, if you are at the top of your game, the amount of money you could earn per commercial job was phenomenal. So really you could choose to work. Let’s say a thousand dollars gigs all year long, or you could like aim for like the 10,000, a hundred thousand dollars gigs and work one, two, three, four, five times a year. And I just chose sort of early on in my life that what I thought was most exciting was to create low-frequency high-impact pieces of work and that’s just something I have stuck to. Is it the right or wrong decision? I don’t know, but, you know, with every decision comes consequences. And so you just have to kind of accept that this is the life that I have decided to choose. And, you know, I could always change. I could always go back to doing Tik TOK, videos, and little catchy things. If that was truly what I wanted to do. But as I get older, I’m like, no, I think I made the right decision.
That’s a great answer. I would propose it. In addition to being a great photographer. You’re also somewhat of a marketing genius, quite a bit of what you talk about, even the idea of telling your story. It’s about personal branding. There’s a lot of marketing woven into your storyline here, but you’re an engineer by education. So how did this marketing skillset come about? Or are you one of those people that just kind of gets it? How much work was involved in getting you to this point in terms of your marketing skills?
I don’t think I’m a natural storyteller. Actually. I do think that it was something that I had to learn one step at a time. I think because if you go back in time and so on flicker, for example, you can go look at my work from 2007 or 2008 onwards. My entire archive of my growth is there. And you can read the description of some of my earlier stuff. And they’re not interesting. Like, I am not a good writer. I’m not a good storyteller. You can look at earlier videos that I made on YouTube. I am not that good. Like if I had the level of. The ability to make anything interesting, like, let’s say Casey Neistat or a Peter McKinnon style individual who is just truly like a gifted storyteller. I think I would be far more successful than I am today. I think I’m where I am in spite of my. My skills as opposed to, as a result of them. So where I am in marketing and how I’ve managed to brand myself is a by-product of just consistently trying and getting better and finding the little quirks and studying the patterns that have emerged that have been successful and discarding the ones that don’t. I would say it’s really like blind persistence that has gotten me to where I am today. So I spend, I think I just spend more time than the average person thinking about the story. It isn’t so much that I am better at it. I just pour a lot more time and energy and revisions and really tweaking, like in a behind the scene video, the first 30 seconds are so important. And I, I will spend weeks working on 30 seconds of video to make sure that the visuals match the music, match the voice-over and it kills anyone that works with me. Like they hate it because it’s just so hard for them to, to play along with that. So there, there are principles. There are books you can read. Contagious is a really good book by Jonah Berger. Make it stick by chip and Dan Heath, they talk about the importance of let’s say emotions, they’re active emotions and passive emotions. You don’t want people to feel sad after they watch something because sad makes people want to turn away outrage and discussed. May people want to click on something and share something shock and awe inspiration. Like these are also active emotions, which, which, which get people to want to do something. You know, you can look at algorithms and you can see that, Oh, the average person only takes two seconds before they decide whether or not they’re going to continue watching a video. What does that mean? Well, that means you’re to your first two seconds better be really, really good. And so these, like, I think my storytelling chops are a by-product of just paying attention to the engineering side of it and trying to deconstruct it as opposed to an innate talent.
Very cool. So there’s a word that keeps coming to my mind as I listened to you, but. You haven’t actually used the word. And I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but at least from my experience woven throughout your story have experiences and things that you’ve tried and the way that you’ve tried them. There has to have been failure along the way.
Oh, tons of failure. I’m still failing. Yeah.
I think failure is something that really handcuffs a lot of people. It creates a lot of anxiety. It prevents a lot of people from really achieving their goals because they’re just simply afraid of failing. How do you deal with it? Obviously, you’re putting yourself in a lot of different situations where not only is there a high potential for failure. But even, even just the learning curve that you’ve gone through and to do it in 10 years, I mean, that’s pretty impressive. I get it at your age. That seems like a long time, but I assure you it’s not. So how do you deal with that?
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I’m trying to think of like how I want to reply to this question, right? Because there is, there would be like the scripted answer where you say. You know, the only way to success is to fail multiple times. And if you can fail more than other people and then, you know, you’ll have a greater chance of success and there’s all these conventional wisdoms that I’m sure everyone has heard. And I think it would be interesting to like give maybe a more vulnerable answer. I think a lot of the work that I do looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. As an example, if I tie a model 30 meters underwater in a shipwreck, you might feel that the chance of failure is really high. But it isn’t, it isn’t because you have a professional model who knows how to hold her breath. You have a professional dive crew who knows how to tie her down. There was me who actually, I’m not a very good diver and I’m not a very good underwater photographer, but if you take enough photos, the one that’s going to come out good. And so what you really have is a story. The story is. Just as successful is more successful than the, the, the success or failure of the project, because the barrier for visual literacy, uh, from the general public is very low. I would argue that people who do work that is too good and too complex, it actually gets less understood. And you’ll see this on Instagram. Like, you’ll go to these things and you’re like, why do these guys have millions of followers? They just do the same thing every time over and over again. Right. It’s because that’s, you know, people are very simple. They like simple, repeatable, pleasant, looking things over and over again, and that’s totally fine. And so I think I tend to adopt, I get a lot more credit than I deserve for the. For the projects that I do because they look harder than they are now, that being said, and where does the failure occur? Where does a chances of failure occur? In my case, other things could have gone wrong. Like if the dive crew didn’t show up, I’d be screwed. And this is true of every project. Like I adopt projects. So I, I created an art installation out of 168,000 plastic straws in Vietnam recently. And it was these two crashing waves, but I had never created an art installation with straws before. So when I flew to Vietnam, I didn’t even have a building builder crew there. And I, but I had a one month deadline regardless when I got there. And so. Was there a chance of failing? Yes, absolutely. Was there a chance that nothing would have come out of it? No, I don’t think so. And so the, you know, you, you kind of, I think there’s a way to stack the deck in your favor and to figure out what your, your minimum viable story is. Right. And so, so that even in the event of failure, you still have a great story. And if you have a great story in your, your role as a storyteller, then have you really failed because people like to see Charles and tribulations. They like to see stumbling blocks. They like to see doubts. I mean, that’s what makes a story authentic. And so I hedge my bets that way by, by ensuring that regardless of what the. Output is the story is always interesting. And, and so if I go back to the, um, the story of the little girl who was dying of a terminal general brain disease, and that was a wonderful story, you’re like, wow, how did you know it was going to work? Well, I didn’t actually, I thought it was going to fail. I thought it was going to fail so much that I invited a videographer to film me, trying to make this video so that if I failed the story would be this guy trying to help and failing. And that was, that was the backup plan. Like I literally had a backup plan for like anticipating me to fail and it, and it didn’t. And so it was like, it was like, you know, and, and so I guess what I’m trying to say is. I am just as I think I’m an, I’m just a normal person who, who happens to, to choose, to be careful to choose the stories that I, that I, that I want to tell. And I start a lot of experiments that don’t go very far. I try things that often don’t work out and. I spent a lot more time talking and a lot less time doing. And these are things that I would like to figure out a way around and I’m not too sure how and the reason, I guess it’s not, I’m not now I’ve sort of sidestepped your question, but I think when you bring guests on to like podcast and people are talking about what they do, it’s often like the, Oh, these are all the amazing ways I think. And these are the things I do. And, but I’m, you know, I really think we’re all you get these people behind the scenes and no one really knows what they’re doing. Like we have. We have ways that have worked for us. And we continue down that path, just like everyone has ways that work for them and continue down that path. And there’s always room for improvement. And so I don’t think I’ve conquered the fear of failure more so than anybody else.
That’s good to hear. I mean, I will say that I think you’re a bit modest in terms of your talents and your abilities. But you just said that you spend a lot more time talking than doing so I just want to clarify, do you mean in the sense of your ideas, your creative thoughts, like kind of, you know, talking them through?
Yeah. So when it comes to impact work, this is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. Oh, wait, let me, let me talk. Let me, let me wrap this into failure real quick. For a second failure is not binary. A project is not a failure or a success. There are elements of a project that can be failures and elements of a product that can be successful. And so if you create a campaign where you’re trying to raise awareness for, I don’t know, child hunger, let’s say. And, uh, and, and this thing gets millions of views, but it raises $0. Then it’s. Is that a failure or is that a success, right? Or if the images are the best images you’ve ever taken in your life and they’ve won a zillion awards, but they actually didn’t get seen by anyone because the people in the field that had to see it, didn’t recognize it then is that a failure? And so I think it’s important to kind of separate away from like the binary success and failure. So because of this, like, Binary when you do impact, when you start going into it, people go in with the best of intentions, because they’re just like, Oh, I want to make a difference. But in that sentence, I want to make a difference. I want to feel good about myself. I want to feel important. I want to feel like my work has value. There’s a lot of like I, and a lot of ego there. And not that it’s bad. I mean, it’s coming from a good place. However, when you go into impact and you realize, I think the first question is like, how does the work that I do fit into the work that these guys are doing? Am I the right person to do the job? Am I the right person to tell that story? Like, do I understand the problem? Well, enough. To be the voice for this thing. And am I spending as much time listening or more than I am talking? And so when you, when you go into impact, it becomes really important to ask all of these questions because to truly be the most helpful person you have to be in service of the other. And I think that artists in general, Often come from a place of scarcity because they’re still coming from a place of some of the survival and alignment of intention and trying to figure out how they fit into this world. I mean, just, I think humans in general are trying to figure this out. And the world of impact is just really, really complicated in that way. And so I spend a lot of time thinking and meeting people that are, have nothing to do with photography, because I am trying to figure out. How, what I do can be a service to the people that I meet. And it’s gotten to the point where I spend a lot of time talking to people about it’s stories that they could tell. And often I am the wrong person for that job. So I can go in and consult with people and break things down and talk about this stuff and just be like, you know what? This is the person you need. This is the kind of person that you need. It’s not me actually. And I think that. Becomes hard after a while, because if you are a creative and you, and so I, I qualify myself as a creative extrovert. I get a lot of energy from co-creating with people. And if all I’m doing is talking, it sort of paralyzes me. And that’s something that’s been particularly hard during COVID where. I think in the past, I would just bounce from country to country and find people who wanted to do something and see what would spark if I just showed up there and that’s no longer possible. And so I’ve, I’ve had to figure out what is enough and to redefine what success and contribution should feel like and look like. And that’s been pretty difficult.
I love that phrase, creative extrovert. So along those lines, you’re basically talking about collaboration. But it sounds like you kind of create a team for whatever project you’re working on. So, I guess if you could maybe start, shall we say at 30,000 feet, and then let’s drill down a little. Tell me about your creative process for these bigger impact projects.
Yeah. So the creative process, generally, if we start from the top and we started work our way down, it starts with listening. It starts with understanding. It starts with figuring out, you know, What may be if I understand this problem correctly, from my perspective, and as we slowly work our way down and constraints start to fall into place, that’s when I’m able to start being creative. I know there’s a school of thought that says like, Oh, we should start dreaming as big as possible and then filter down. But I think that gets really tiring really, really quickly, because what you do is you pour all this time and energy and effort. To generate ideas that will never happen just so that you can filter it down to the ideas that are possible. And I quite prefer understanding what people think is possible and then push against the boundaries of what that is to, to like expand that sphere to be like, well, have you thought about it that way? And I feel like I can be more creative when it understand. What, what you’re able to do and what you’re not able to do. And the process is generally this it’s just conversation. It’s trying to understand, like, what are people like, what are people trying to get out of it? So what is the outcome that you’re going for rather than what is the output? We know the output is a photo or a video or a story or a campaign. And you want like some views, but like, what would you do with 10 million views anyways? And most people don’t have an answer for that, which is kind of interesting. Like besides the, either like, Oh, I just want to raise money or I want to raise awareness, but like, but like what would you do with all these views? What’s the best use of those views? And once we have that, then the quote unquote, like I think this is what people normally qualify as creative. It’s like, Oh, now we can think of the ideas, right. Because if let’s say you wanted to make, um, a photo shoot then, and you had. Suddenly you had access to a space. Well, then the space would define the constraints around what kind of shot you might create, what you might think of what you might explore. And that’s where I kind of go. And I start looking generally outside of my field of expertise. So I don’t look at other people’s photographs or I don’t really look at other people’s installations. I might look at paintings or drawings or graphic novels or comics and. Figure out, like how have other people taking these abstract concepts and, and built them in. And then from there you come up with a number of different ideas, generally like two, five ideas for them back and forth to people and figure out which ones resonate. And, and then it starts becoming more and more concrete for them. So. So, I guess the three phases, maybe you start off with sort of a design phase and design is all about understanding constraints relative to the outcome that you’re looking for. And then you move on to kind of a prototyping phase where you’re kind of you’re, you have an idea that worked really well in your mind. Now you need to figure out whether or not it translates into reality. And so you prototype you prototype you, experiment things, change. And then you reach the execution phase where you just do it, and now you have to find the person to build the thing and hope that like they’re competent enough to do that
So as you’re going from country to country doing various projects. Do you have a core group of people that you work with that travel with you or are you literally finding and building a new team wherever you go?
So the most important core team elements. The number one most important thing is like the videographer that can kind of document things and, and, and help me out. And so I have a couple of friends that I have made over time. They mostly started off as volunteers helping out for free. And then you tend to hire the people that you trust for jobs that have higher stakes. And I find it really hard to trust someone that you’ve never worked with before. And so I try to like, just either me volunteering for them on their project or them volunteering for me on my project to kind of understand what that dynamic might be. There’s usually a behind the scene photographer, but that one, you know, it’s sometimes outsourced and sometimes it’s my girlfriend. So a lot of every, every photo shoot that’s properly documented, my girlfriend has come along. Otherwise it’s just kind of open source behind the scene photography that comes into play. But the rest of it, the rest of it is, is, is very contingent on who, who shows up because this story is the part that I think I own. What happens from that point forward is, is the community project. It’s what, what has the community wanted to create? And it becomes a reflection of that.
How detailed is your prototyping process for projects? Like when you’re doing the straws or when you’re doing the e-waste project and how much testing for things like lighting and camera angles, are you doing as part of that prototyping? Or is this something that you’re really just working through in your head and then sorting it out when it comes time to shoot.
So when it comes to the art installations themselves, I would say it depends on the stakes. If it’s a. You know, a self-funded project, there’s no budget for that. So you just wing it. Uh, if it’s a sponsored project, then you, you have a little bit more funds, but it’s still not enough to necessarily hire the level of crew that you really need. And so you’re also pseudo winging it, but you may have a little bit more time because part of the approval process of a sponsored project is they kind of need to like be kept informed as you go. And so you’re, you have a little bit more of a dialogue. And then for commercial projects that are commissioned. Well, that’s when you really make sure that you have all the pieces ahead of time. So I would say it really depends on, it really depends on the amount of money that you have for the photography side of it, though, I used to shoot with medium format Mamiya Leaf, credo, 80 and Broncolors. So a hundred thousand dollars of camera equipment on sets. And I started to realize that when I did these behind the scenes with all this flashy equipment, People appreciated the images less because they felt like it was a by-product of the gear that I had and it made the work less relatable, even though it was very beautiful that made me like want to use worse and worse gear. And so right now, today I shoot with a Sony. I have a 16mm to 35mm F4 haven’t even upgraded to the two eight, and often I will show up on a set with maybe one or two speed lights. Like a Godox, AD200 or something just as a backup flash. But by and large, I try to use whatever my volunteers will bring to me. And that becomes like the gear that I use. And we’ll just. Play. That’s amazing. But, the thing is like photography, obeys, such simple rules of physics. And once you understand those rules of physics, they never change. And so in that sense, photography is a lot easier than marketing because marketing is a constantly changing environment. You’re, you know, algorithms are shifting, interests are shifting, everything’s shifting, but photography is the same rules of physics. And so if, you know, like. U.S. shooting in broad daylight. It’s always going to be as hard as shooting in broad daylight. It hasn’t, it’s gotten it’s actually, it actually gets easier over time because technology gets better. So really there’s this it, as you are in the space for longer and technology gets better, it gets easier to be creative. And so you almost, I feel like that’s not where the heavy lifting has to happen. Like once you master and understand it. You don’t need to pay that much more attention to it. So objectively, I think I’m a worse photographer today than I was five years ago, but that’s because I’ve poured all my time and energy and effort into like the other pieces of it that I think are harder to replicate and harder to, to, to fully grasp.
Right. And, and I think it’s fair to say those words that you just spoke. Every photographer needs to hear those, but I think a part of it too, is that as photographers. We get very caught up in what we know to be the process, the gear, everything that went into the shot, that the people that digest our work, especially your work, which has a bigger social purpose. Those people don’t actually care about the gear. It’s a matter of where they moved by the story that you created.
Yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, I want the new cameras. I mean, I just saw the Sony a one and I’m like, I want that camera. It is, it is sexy. I mean, I know all the things that I hate about my, my art too are fixed, but I don’t want to spend $6,000 in something I don’t, I don’t need it. And yeah. And I think this really comes back to this concept of enoughness that I think the world needs more of because this endless pursuit of more and better and greater and faster and stronger with more followers to get more like the, like it’s a, it’s a losing battle. Like you can never. You’ll never have enough. It’ll never be good enough. There’ll always be something better. And, and it’s really frustrating to be stuck in that loop. And I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s, it’s a practice. It’s something I’m working on.
I’ve already said that you are very modest in describing your own talents, especially as a photographer. So I’m curious, speaking, just about photography, not the storytelling, not the marketing, but the physics and the process of photography. Hm. What do you find is the most difficult part of the process? What, what is the piece that usually requires a little bit of extra attention from you?
I’m trying to think about that. I, because every project is different, but let’s say so let’s, if we eliminate pre-production completely and I picture myself on the set of a shoot that I’ve prepared for and I have the gear. And I know what shot I’m trying to create. I think the hardest part is closing the gap between what’s in my heart. Uh what’s in my mind. And what what’s in reality, I think, especially with like very controlled. Okay. Okay. Maybe this is a good way to describe it. You know, when, you know, when you take an image and you know, it’s wrong and. You know, something’s off, but you don’t know what, and you just keep poking away to like, try to figure it out. I think that closing that gap between your tastes and what you’re actually manifesting and creating is the hardest thing. And I think the good thing about this for me and my case is that my, my tastes are generally a lot harsher than that, of the people that I’m collaborating with. So I’m the only one that’s unsatisfied with the image and I’m trying to like tweak it and make it better and make it better. But, but sometimes there’s really that gap. So I have, I have a fun creative project coming up this Saturday I’m going into, so I told you that I was, I discovered that I was a creative extrovert. And so this is there’s this need to just be around people and to do something with my life instead of just talking. And so I found these people who make suits of armor locally here, and I offered to like take pictures of them. And so they they’re getting they’re like 20 or so employees they’re going to deck them full out and like make alchemists, whatever. And they’re going to be like, In like a S uh, a library or a Tavern and, and, and they’re kind of creating their calls, the separation between cool and tacky is very narrow. And so the question is in these really tight confined environments where you’re placing your life, and you’re really trying to create a very specific atmosphere. How do you, how do you close that gap between what you see in your head and how do you, and what you want to do. And I think that tight control is where things get quite challenging. When you don’t have a lot of time. So I have 30 minutes per group of people, and then I have 30 minutes to set up the next shot in between. And so it, and we have like four different locations in a single day. And so I’m sure, like when I think of like what I would be feeling challenged about, it’s like accepting that, okay, this is good enough. I need to move on because I can’t quite close that gap. And I think that gap is, is always there in, in, in my life because I never. Took the time to really become a master at photography. I applied like the 80 20 rule. I like, I am really good at the first 80%. And then that last 20% is where I struggle. And, but it’s enough to still create a good image. So I kind of that’s how I great.
So do you think in some ways that maybe that’s actually to your advantage, in other words, if, if you had gone those extra steps with the photography education and the structure that comes with that education. I would argue you kind of have a luxury of not being bound by that structure because once you learn it, you’re in that box. And once you’re in the box, you’ve got to work harder to get beyond it.
Mm yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think it is definitely a personality trait, so for better, for worse, that is exactly I am where I am because of who I am. So for better or for worse.
In the beginning of our conversation, when you were describing your work, you said it looks like it was done with Photoshop, but obviously you’re building these incredible installations in sets. So how much Photoshop work is involved in your imagery?
I mean, Photoshop is a tool and photography is a tool. The goal is the end result, right. And the story, and I’m, I’m not a purist in that. I, you know, if, if I, if I screwed something up, I N no problems fixing it in Photoshop, but the goal, the goal is always to not do that. And I will spend hours and hours extra in real life. If I can, if I have the choice. In order to not do something in Photoshop, if I think it’s physically possible, it’s just, I think it’s just a personal choice. I think things look better in reality. Like when you can do something in reality and, and you can make reality look magical, there’s nothing more magical than that. So I try very hard to do that. I guess the way, the way I like to describe it is. I mean, yeah. I just use Photoshop to fix my mistakes. I’ll, I’ll use it to like enhance the images from like color contrast curves and everything, but ultimately I’m not very good at Photoshop too. I realized early on that I don’t like to spend my time alone at home in front of a computer, like working on an image. I like to spend my time surrounded by people, problem solving together and co-creating with them and, and, and, and seeing. Uh, fantasy world unfold in front of their very eyes. Like that’s what gets me excited. And so that’s where I choose to spend my time.
Awesome. So I’ve got one last really loaded question for you who you are work always has a purpose and, and even your own personal work is a kind of social activity. So what is the one subject or topic that is running through your mind at this point in your life? 2021, still in the middle of the pandemic. What is the one subject or topic that you haven’t been able to photograph or tell the story of that you really want to?
I would really, really love the opportunity to tell the story of algorithm bias. I think that our ability to solve problems is dependent on our ability to have conversations. And if we’re. Creating a world in which conversations are no longer happening where our sense of shared reality and myth is disintegrating in front of our very eyes and our, our desire or our capability to feel empowered and connected is disappearing. Then how do we solve these big issues of our lifetime? And, and I think there’s something to be said about. How much time we spend pursuing things we don’t really want, like, what would you do with two orders of magnitude more followers? Would it make you happier? What would you accomplish with that? Do you truly, do you actually have, are you gaining influence or are you just gaining followers? And if you’re creating content, like what, what is the point of creating that content? These are just like, who are you feeding? Are you feeding yourself? Are you feeding a machine that is making money for someone else? Like. And, and I, and I just think it raises so many important questions around, like how much in control are we of who we are today, how much of it is conscious and how much of it is just like us being strung along by, by a society and incentives that aren’t really in alignment. And I think there’s something really, really interesting there, uh, the intersection of technology and activism that I would love to tackle.
I can’t wait to see. How you approach that. And I hope to make it easier. I hope that the right sponsor comes along and says we have a need, and that they enable you to be able to do that because, uh, I, I can’t even begin to imagine where you would go with it, but based on your body of work, Benjamin and I have no doubt it would be, it would be incredible.
Can I put a couple of requests out into the world just to see what serendipity comes back? Of course, please do. So the first is if you enjoy the replies that I’m giving, I think it would be interesting to look at the kind of conversations that I’m having, because it’s the conversations that we have and the people that we surround ourselves with that. Determine who we are. And so what I’m reflecting back to you is, you know, through my perspective, but I think it could be really interesting for anyone who’s at enjoy the responses to learn a little bit more. And so the way you can do that is either follow me into clubhouse. If you have a clubhouse account that would be Von Wong or listen to my podcast, which is called impact everywhere, where it explores positive impact in unexpected places. These are the conversations that shaped my view of the world, as well as my approach of it. And, uh, And so that’s the first, the second thing that I am working on and trying to figure out is I have never written a book because I’m not interested in, or I hadn’t been interested in being an educator. And I don’t really think I want to be an educator per se, but I am interested in compiling my thoughts and experiences into somewhat of a guidebook or best practices or something along those lines. And if. Someone is really good at compiling knowledge. Like whether you’re a journalistic ghost writer, a course writer or something along those lines, please hit me up because I need some. Yeah. Thank you.
And I do hope that you find that person that can help you with that. I would be the first in line to get that book. I assure you again, Benjamin. Thank you so much, folks. I have all the links for Benjamin’s clubhouse and podcast in the show notes, as well as his website. Make sure you check them out.
Thanks, man. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
It’s time for this week’s photo quote and featured photographer.
Be a student of humanities, because if you are, it makes you a more sensitive recorder of life. This quote comes to us from the Armenian born portrait photographer. Use of Karsh. These are words that have served me well as a photographer and coming from use of Karsh, I would suggest that there is no better source of guidance during his iconic career. He held 15,312 sittings produced over 250,000 negatives and left an indelible, artistic and historical record of the men and women who shaped the 20th century. Many of cautious portraits are the definitive images that we remember. Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, and Albert Einstein are just a few examples. If you think of a photograph of them, you are probably thinking of a Cartia portrait born in 1908. Carl opened his first portrait studio in Ottawa, Canada in 1932. Throughout his life, Karsh photographed anyone who was anyone by the time he retired in 1992, more than 20 of his photos had appeared on the cover of life magazine. Porsche’s photos were known for their use of dramatic lighting, which became the hallmark of his portrait style. I encourage you to study as much as you can about Mr. Karsh and his techniques. It will definitely impact the way you approach photographing people. I have a link to his website, show notes. This week, talent under 30 photographer is Ronnie Garcia. Ronnie Garcia is a 29 year old fine art portrait photographer based in Barranquilla. Colombia Ronnie’s work is vibrant. Surreal any emotional. He went to school for graphic and multimedia design, and it is obvious in his images. What’s not obvious is that he didn’t pick up a camera until age 24. That’s right. He’s only been shooting for five years. Be sure to check out Ronnie’s work. The links to his website and Instagram are in the show notes. It is difficult not to get lost in the realism of his concepts and folks, you can help me out and hold the door open for a younger photographer. If you know of an incredibly talented photographer of any genre under the age of 30, who is creating exceptional work, please share his or her Instagram handle with me so that I can check them out and possibly feature them here on Tod chat. And gang, when you do visit the Instagram profiles or these young photographers, please follow them. They are at a point in their careers where the follows and the likes do count and help to get their excellent work noticed by editors and creative directors.
It’s time for some problem solving the TOGCHAT Q&A
Our first question is from Jerry. I’m a portrait photographer, and I was shooting in my home and in my clients’ homes, I’m opening up a small studio space. Am I insane doing this during a pandemic, low overhead? And I have all the equipment. What are your thoughts, Jerry? Most people will probably tell you that. Yes, you are insane. I would disagree provided that you have taken the time and put in the effort. Made sure that you have an excellent business plan put together, make sure that you have researched and acquired all of the appropriate insurances liability insurances. If you need fire insurance, anything like that for the space that you are leasing. In other words, do all your homework. If your local municipalities require any types of permits, anything like that, get it together. Make sure you applied secured. All of those permits. And from that point, Jerry hit the ground running. Don’t sit back and relax. There’s actually an advantage to starting a business right now provided that you’ve got a little bit of money in the bank to give yourself a little bit of a buffer. U.S. this pandemic to really beef up your marketing, to be building out your portfolio, make sure that your website is on point and get into that studio and do lots of practice sessions. You want to be able to make sure that you are the master of that space. You know what your lighting and your modifiers are going to do. Obviously, since you’ve been shooting at home, you’ve already got a lighting style and a lighting method, but once you go into a different space, it’s going to work a little bit differently. So put in the time, put in the effort, do the practice, make sure you really understand what your capabilities and your possibilities are in this new space and have fun. That’s the luxury. Be sure
to check the show notes for any websites and video links that Joe mentions
from Lawrence. I just ordered a SpiderX Elite calibration tool for my monitor. How often should you do the calibration on your devices? Lawrence, it’s a great tool. I use the Spider XElite as well. That a color makes great products. I’ve been very happy with them. I do my monitors monthly, which I am pretty sure is what DataColor actually recommends. As you reach the end of the calibration process, the software is going to ask you, would you like us to provide you reminders? And I believe that it’s going to give you a choice of like seven days, 14 days, et cetera. I do my monthly. I have no problem at all. Works out. Great. The only thing that I would say might cause you to do it more often. If you are in a room where seasonally, you have different light in the room, in other words, you’ve got window light and that window light impacts the brightness of the room throughout the year. The quality of that light will change a little bit. Seasonally. Your room light does impact the calibration process. So if that’s the case, you might want to pay attention to it and you may need to do it a little bit more often. But I’ve worked monthly pretty much forever and never had a problem.
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Thomas asks, how do I make people comfortable walking through my house to my photography studio. Thomas, that’s always a challenge. I have a home studio as well, and surprisingly, it starts not with your studio, not with making people comfortable, but it starts with your photographs. It’s important. If you are going to set up a business and work from home as a photographer and bring people into your house and into a studio, which is likely to be in your basement or an attic, or kind of out back, you know, in a separate building, it’s important to have a portfolio that screams professionalism and high quality work. The next step is make sure that you are being very forthcoming. From the beginning of your communications with your clients, when I’m working with models, any kind of client, I tell them right up front, we’ll be shooting in my home studio. Now you may know that I have a video on YouTube. That is a walkthrough of my home studio. I take advantage of that video. And I also email people a link to that video. And basically say here’s the studio that we’ll be working in. So they see that. Yes, it’s in my house, but it’s a fully worked out, you know, studio that is capable of doing professional work. If you don’t, I have a YouTube video of your studio. That’s fine. You can do a couple simple, still shots that show your studio set up that show that you’ve got all the professional gear, that show that you have a dedicated space. But essentially Thomas, you want to put yourself in your client’s shoes, if you were hiring a photographer and they said, yes, we’re going to shoot in my house, in my basement. What would your concerns be? How would that make you feel? And what would you be looking for from that photographer that would put you at ease and make you comfortable? Make sure that you are providing your clients and your potential clients, the answers to those concerns and, and you’ll be fine, but don’t hide it. Be very forthright. Don’t apologize for it. Don’t make excuses for it. Make sure you have a portfolio that says you do great work. And then be very upfront. This is where I work and this is how I work. I have never had a problem.
Did you know that you can have Joe as your personal photography mentor, I’m talking about direct access to ask him questions and get advice. You can also attend weekly video meetups for members to share and help each other with Joe’s guidance. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes.
Question from Linda, how can I position a beauty dish to minimize expression marks? So Linda, I’m assuming you mean things like laugh lines and wrinkles and that kind of stuff. I have to tell you, honestly, if that’s your concern, I wouldn’t use a beauty dish. Beauty dishes are challenging to get good light from. And if you notice most of the time where we see tutorials for beauty dish, et cetera, they are done on young, attractive, beautiful women with great skin. And they are frequently not doing big smiles, which would cause the expression marks. The way a beauty dish is designed with the wrap around the light. It creates very rapid fall off. In other words, it almost kind of speeds up the effects of the inverse square law. That’s a big part of what creates the shadows in the expression marks. So if I’m being really honest, Linda, the only real solution for a beauty dish to minimize expression marks is to try to not have your subject to a particularly large expression. And one other idea is also to put a sock on the beauty dish. For those of you that don’t know a sock is basically just a diffuser on the beauty dish to soften it up just a little bit. But if you have the option, Linda, and you’re worried about expression marks, I would recommend going to soft boxes as opposed to beauty dishes and potentially using to either doing like the clam shell type lighting, or even a sideways clam shell, where you have the lights on either side of the camera lens, you’re going to get much softer, much more flattering light. And if you’re looking for that kind of rapid fall off of the light that you get with the beauty dish, Just bring the soft boxes, very close to your subject, that you want them to be equal distance on either side of the camera lens, but bring them as close as you possibly can. The inverse square law will then give you that wrap and fall off.
Are you a member of a photography club or meetup group? Did you know that Joe presents virtually to clubs all around the world? Follow the presentation, link in the show notes to learn more.
Jonathan is asking, have you heard of wifi six and wifi six devices? Jonathan, I have. In fact, I’m seeing these days that you can actually buy wifi six wireless routers, et cetera. I not. Overly excited. I’m not rushing out to buy one at yet. So for those of you that don’t know if you have a wifi router in your home and it’s been there for a few years, it’s most likely a wifi five. It will work up to like five gigabytes- gigahertz. Gosh, whichever it is. But five is essentially how fast it’s going to go. The new wifi six devices that are coming will allow for downloads. I believe it’s 9.6 megabytes per second, but understand gang, that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to get 9.6 megabytes per second. Download the real benefit Jonathan of the wifi six. And this is one of the things that I am a little bit excited about. It is designed to support. More devices. So if you have a scenario where, you know, maybe you’re working on a computer at home and you’re either, let’s say you’re live streaming like I do, but you have a wife or a significant other who’s in another room watching television and you’re getting your TV shows via the internet on a service like Hulu or Netflix. That can be a little bit intense on your wifi because of the way the current. Wifi routers work. So it’s actually not about their download speeds. They’re actually the current wifi is actually fast enough to support those things, but it’s not great to handling multiple devices. So the real benefit for most of us with wifi six will be the idea that it is designed to be able to manage more devices and maintain. Proper download and upload speeds for them. But I have not switched over yet.
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here from Joan. I have uneven wood flooring in my studio. What can I do to protect my seamless paper backgrounds from tearing when a model walks across them, Joe and I got to tell you, I’ve had that happen to me many times in different studios. Over the years, there are two solutions that I have come up with. One is to go to a HomeDepot or Lowe’s or any lumberyard. And buy two thin sheets of four foot by eight foot. Plywood and essentially lay them down underneath the paper so that the model is actually walking on the plywood and where the floor is. And even since it’s a four foot by eight foot sheet and I’ll, I’ll usually stick the two of them together, they are broad enough that they kind of level out wherever the inconsistencies are in the floor. And it’s going to make sure that the model’s heels don’t poke through the paper. The other option, if your four is not. Incredibly uneven, but just a little bit uneven would be to look at getting a rubber Nat. You could look to the office supply type scenario, uh, for rubber mats. Like they put under desk chairs. I will tell you that they tend to be a little bit expensive, especially when you get to the bigger ones. What I would actually recommend is. Going to suppliers like Denny Manufacturing, that’s D E N N Y, or you know, check out B&H and Adorama even Amazon, but you want to look for the rubberized backgrounds that are available, uh, frequently you can buy like, uh, wood textures and things like that that are on rubber so that you can use them as flooring, along with paper backdrops my recommendation again, if the goal is for this to support the paper backdrops. You don’t really care what the background looks like. So I would go to the clearance sections for these companies. I would look for them to put some of these rubber backgrounds on clearance and buy the cheapest biggest one that you can, that you can lay down. Now, the rubber one is still going to have a little give to it. So you don’t want to use it on a really super uneven floor, but if the floor is just a little bit uneven, the rubber will work. Absolutely fine. Unless the model is wearing high heels. So woods definitely best rubber would be the secondary option.
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Gavin is asking, do you shoot in SRGB or Adobe RGB color modes? Gavin, I generally shoot in Adobe RGB unless my intent is to shoot JPEGs and take them right out of the camera and put them online. If whatever I’m doing, I’m in a hurry for them. And that’s where the images are going. Otherwise Adobe RGB of course, gives me a slightly wider color gamut. Admittedly, I don’t do near as much printing as I would like to, or as I should. So I’m honestly. I’m honestly not taking advantage of that additional color gamut as much as I would like to, but it’s kind of been a habit forever and I stick with it. I still want that confidence of knowing I’ve got a little bit more color. Some of you might say, well, then why aren’t you shooting in pro photo RGB? I have run some simple tests. These are not. You know, statistically accurate scientific bench tests, but I’ve run simple tests and haven’t seen enough of a benefit to do it. So Adobe RGB is my standard and then I’ll convert to SRG B. Before I put my images online, it is very important. If you’re shooting in Adobe RGB, make sure you convert your JPEGs to SRGb. Don’t post Adobe RGB color mode on the internet because your colors are never going to look exactly the same as they looked on your computer screen.
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From Melissa. Any tips for removing creases in fabric backdrops. Melissa Short of using a steamer or ironing. That it’s pretty much it. What I would recommend is try to purchase backdrops that are made of fabrics that do not crease. That’s honestly your, your best approach. I have a video that I’ll put a link to in the show notes that shows you the materials that I use for my DIY portrait backgrounds. I can fold those backgrounds up, that material can stay folded for years and I can take it off the shelf, hang it up. And there are absolutely no creases at all. It’s kind of like, um, almost like a crushed Valore type material. So you might want to check that out. Okay. Folks that will do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT photography podcast. Stay safe, have a great week. And until next time. Please remember these words. Thanks for listening to the TOGCHAT photography podcast. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something because your best shot. It’s your next shot. So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting. Adios.
“Be a student of humanities because if you are, it makes you a more sensitive recorder of life.”
— Yousuf Karsh
During his iconic career he held 15,312 sittings, produced over 250,000 negatives, and left an indelible artistic and historical record of the men and women who shaped the twentieth century. Many of Karsh’s portraits are the definitive images that we remember. Earnest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro and Albert Einstein are just a few examples — if you think of a photograph of them — you are probably thinking of a Karsh portrait.
Born in 1908, Karsh opened his first portrait studio in Ottawa Canada in 1932. Throughout his life, Karsh photographed “anyone who was anyone.” By the time he retired in 1992, more than 20 of his photos had appeared on the cover of Life magazine.
Karsh’s photos were known for their use of dramatic lighting, which became the hallmark of his portrait style.
I encourage you to study as much as you can about Mr. Karsh and his techniques. It will definitely impact the way you approach photographing people.
Talent Under 30
This week’s Talent Under 30 photographer is Ronny Garcia.
Ronny Garcia is a 29-year-old fine art portrait photographer based in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Ronny’s work is vibrant, surreal, and emotional. He went to school for graphic and multimedia design and it is obvious in his images. What’s not obvious is that he didn’t pick up a camera until age 24. That’s right, he has only been shooting for 5 years.
Be sure to check out Ronny’s work. It is difficult not to get lost in the realism of his concepts.
You can help me out and “hold the door open” for a young photographer
If you know of an incredibly talented photographer of any genre – under the age of 30 who is creating exceptional work – please share his or her Instagram handle with me so that I can check them out and possibly feature them here on TOGCHAT.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
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