Table of Contents
Joe Edelman – The Interviewer Becomes the Interviewed
This week, last week’s guest. My photographer friend, Robert Trawick is back to interview me. That’s right. You asked for it. I’m in the hot seat this week and no questions are off limits. Stay tuned.
You are listening to the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the HOWS and WHYS hind creating consistently great photographs. Here’s your host, Joe Edelman.
Hey gang. Thanks for joining me for episode number 242 of the TOGCHAT photography podcast. I am 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, March 8th, 2021.
Don’t forget to check out the Last Frame photography live stream, live on YouTube every Wednesday evening at 6:00 PM Eastern time in the U S.
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Remember photography is not a competition. It is a passion to be shared.
Next up is a TOGCHAT exclusive interview.
Today we’re going to do something a little different. Quite a few of you had asked me to do an episode about myself and my career. So I thought to make it a bit more interesting. I would solicit some questions from the members of my TOGCHAT Facebook group, and then have another photographer conduct the interview.
So my buddy Robert Trawick, who was my guest last week, he agreed to do the honors and I told him he was allowed to use as many or as few of the submitted questions as he wanted. And then of course add his own questions. So Robert did use a few of your questions, but no worries. Stay tuned until the end and I’ll answer the rest of them before I sign off.
So let’s get right into it. Robert, thank you so much for agreeing to come back and do a second episode of TOGCHAT with me. So this time we’re going to switch roles and you’re going to be the interviewer. I’m not going to lie. Robert, I’ve known you long enough. I’m a little worried about turning over the reigns and allowing you to ask me questions, but I promise my listeners that I would be the subject of an interview.
So I want to thank you in advance. And I’m going to beg you to go easy on me. It’s all yours, Robert.
All right. So I’ve known Joe for while. And of course I am going to plug you because I admire you. I follow you. I love your antics. And we’ve never had a cross word, which is kind of odd between two old photographers.
We should be grumpy old men and like, We should have our own TV show because I think we can, we have to find some places where we kind of rub a little bit. So I think that we can grow and I think today questions or going to open that up for the listeners.
Cool. Bring it on.
All right. Bring it on. I guess it’s, it’s hard to interview someone as iconic as Joe, because well, you put out so much information about yourself online.
It seems as though. Most of what I would ask is already out there. If you did some search and then dig in, but we’re going to have some obviously questions from your followers, as well as some that I personally would love to know, but we’re going to start with the followers first. So. This is one that I think that so many people ask and I think it still needs to be told again.
So, Joe, uh, Robert Giesen would like to know what first got you interested in photography?
Well, there are two different answers. I was always interested in my parents. 8mm movie camera. I was just fascinated by this thing that they would, you know, aim it and shoot movies and then send them off and they come back developed and then we’d watch them with the eight millimeter movie projector.
I just thought it was really cool. But then what really kind of made it happen was, well, I should admit I was a bit of a spoiled kid. I was an only child, so I’ll own that. And I had a deal with my parents. This was like age 11. Every Christmas and every birthday, instead of getting a bunch of just random toys and stuff, they would let me pick something up to a hundred dollars out of the Sears Roebuck catalog.
You know, like one year for Christmas, I got a record player for my bedroom. So the way photography actually kicked off, I was 11 years old and the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog showed up. Now, this was an exciting annual event. So I ran in the house and I started going through the catalog and I got to the page where they had all the cameras and I was just fascinated by them.
I, you know, I had Instamatic cameras, like a 110 and a 126 but in the catalog, I saw this German camera. It was a Hanimex Praktika Nova 1B for $75. So. I was allowed to pick a gift up to a hundred dollars. So I was stoked, ran right back to mom, handed her the catalog and said, this is it. This is what I want.
And like a split second response. She says, no. I was like, what do you mean? No. It’s like $25 below the limit. And she wouldn’t budge. So I went to dad and dad was like, yeah, no, no camera. So. I threw a hissy fit, like a spoiled kid. And my Dad came back at me and he said, you know, you’ve got money in the bank.
You’ve been saving for a mini bike. So make a choice. Do you want the mini bike or do you want the camera? So the very next day I took my money out of the bank and I went and I bought a camera for $75 at my local camera store. And that’s what got me started. So as a young kid, I always had a fascination with cameras and then the catalyst, it was just a piss off my parents because they told me no.
So truth be told. What I heard from that story, Joe, is that you have a severe issue of gas gear acquisitions in front of.
You know, it’s funny, Robert, as much, as much as I give photographers a really hard time about gas, I actually don’t think it’s entirely possible to be a photographer and not suffer from gas to some degree. You know the challenges, of course it’s like anything else you first have to admit that you have a problem in order to control the problems. So yeah.
I have been told that you have to recognize you have a problem, but I that’s what I heard. I didn’t hear anything about, Oh, I had this beautiful girlfriend at 11 and I wanted to capture that moment forever. So I would have it in my twenties. That didn’t happen. They said no. And then you wanted it more.
Yes, it was shiny object syndrome.
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I like that. That’s okay. That’s really good. So you did say that was a double answer. So I think we should go to the other one. So that’s when you got interested, but when did you get started and why
It happened in layers. I was very fortunate to have a few teachers and even administrators in junior high and high school that went above and beyond for me and did things that, you know, in their lives, these were small and inconsequential moments.
But for my life, those moments often wound up being watershed moments that pushed me a step closer to becoming a photographer. But the moment that kind of sealed the deal. And I usually only tell half of this story because it’s a little gruesome, but since I’m being interviewed from my audience, I’ll share the whole story.
I frequently mentioned that I had my first photo published in a newspaper at age 14. The part that I don’t usually share, I was on my way home from junior high school, it was about a 15 minute walk home, and I would cross a set of athletic fields for this school. Then cross a road, then cross a set of train tracks.
And then it was about five more minutes to my house, this particular day on coming down the Hill from the athletic fields, walking towards the road. And there’s a train coming. All of which is pretty normal. The crossing gates had already come down and there was a guy standing at the crossing gates as the train came by.
He jumped in front of it and committed suicide. So I witnessed it. Now there was a car stopped at the crossing gates. The driver got out right away and came to make sure that I was okay. I’m pretty sure he thought I was going to be traumatized. It wasn’t particularly gruesome, you know, it was like the guy was there one second and gone the nets under the train.
So, you know, it’s not like it was a lot of blood guts and gore, but it was still pretty extreme. But here’s the part that I guess kind of set up where my life was going to go. The gentleman from the car made me wait for the police to come since we were witnesses. So as I’m standing there waiting the whole time, I’m thinking, damn it, my camera’s at home.
I don’t have my camera. And I felt like I should be recording the scene. Now, I know there’s a psychologist somewhere saying that I already had issues, but I waited, the police came, the cop was great. He asked me what I saw and he said he wanted to be sure that I was okay. And finally he says, all right, you can go.
So I ran home, ran in the house, grabbed my camera and ran back. Now I get back and believe it or not, the 14 year old Joe was a really shy kid. So I get back to the train crossing and then I’m worried like, gosh, well I get in trouble. If I take a picture. Because by this time, you know, the train of course had stopped a couple hundred yards down the tracks.
It was a commuter train and the police officers had covered the body parts in sheets and they were waiting for a corner to come out and there was a detective there in a suit. But then I heard the cop when his radio calling back to the dispatcher that they needed a photographer. So keep in mind, this is like 1974 and small town police departments didn’t carry cameras.
So whenever there was a crime, they would have the local newspaper photographers shoot the crime scene photos. So they’re trying to get a photographer from the local newspaper, but apparently one guy was on vacation and the other two guys were both out of town on assignments. So I very timidly walk up to the police officer and I’m like, I can take the pictures.
And of course his first reaction was like, no, I can’t do that. But then he’s realizing he has no photographer. So he gets on the radio, has the dispatcher pick up the phone and call the newspaper back. They told him to have me take the photos and then give him the film. So the cop gets off the radio and he looks at me clearly, not sure about the whole thing, but he’s like, are you sure you want to do this?
And I’m like, yeah, I’m sure. So the cop walks me through the entire scene and shows me all the things that need to be photographed and keeps asking me if I’m okay. And honestly, it was, it was just kind of surreal. Like it didn’t gross me out or anything, but it was, it was just very surreal to see these body parts chopped off clean from the trains wheels.
And honestly felt like something out of a movie. Like they were props. So I took the pictures, and then when we’re done, the cop tells me to sit tight and he walks down the tracks to speak with the detective that was there. So I’m looking down the tracks, leading lines. I’m seeing these sets of sheets that are covering body parts that are scattered along the tracks.
I’m seeing the top and the detectives standing there and then directly behind them is the train that it stopped about a hundred yards away. So my mind is screaming at me like that would be such a great shot. So I had my 135mm telephoto lens with me. I put it on my camera and I shot like four frames.
It was just a great storytelling shot with all the elements of the story in one frame. So I took the film out of the camera when the cop said, okay, we’re done. He gets my information so they could replace my film. And I go home. I get home from school the next day and picked up the newspaper and I caught a glimpse of something at the bottom of the front page, as I was putting it down.
I flipped the paper over and at the bottom of the front page of the newspaper is my picture of the two cops standing on the tracks with the sheets and the train. So my 14 year old mind saw the byline photo by Joe Edelman. And then at the top of the paper, the 14 year old mind also saw the masthead. And this was a small town, local newspaper, but the mass had said it was read by 22,000 people daily.
So, you know, in my mind, 22,000 people know that I took that picture. And man I was hooked. It was officially my thing. And honestly, from that point forward, I never looked back.
Wow. That’s absolutely incredible. So that is how you started. Let’s talk about where you are right now, because we’re going to do some time jumping back and forth and this interview.
So back then, that was the camera you chose. That’s the one you wanted to see in the Sears and Roebucks catalog, but that was film. Let’s talk about that change to digital, and I believe one of your followers actually asked that question because that’s one thing I feel there’s very interesting, Doug, and I’m going to probably slaughter this cause I can’t read English -Gnapp.
When did you, which from film to digital. And what was the key thing that made you switch? So why did you switch the digital and the when?
I’m trying to think how I can make this sound sexy because unfortunately it’s going to be another admission that I sometimes get photography GAS. I switched to digital in the year, 2000, not long after the Nikon D1 came out.
I had been playing for probably about four or five years with a Sony Mavica. Those were those little square cameras that you put the floppy disc into. So I was definitely already having fun with digital photography, but I couldn’t use the Mavica professionally. So Nikon comes out with the D1. I bought the 17mm to 35mm F 2.8 zoom, which was my favorite full frame, zoom lens of all time.
And I had the 50mm. The 85mm and the 70mm to 200mm F2.8 to round out my first digital kit. Within six months, I got rid of every piece of film gear that I had, and I went all in with digital. And for me, I love new technology. I find it exciting. The concept of digital photography simply made sense even in the year 2000 and I’ve just never looked back.
I’ve never regretted the change. For the most part, I had an assignment that came along in 2006 or 2007. I was contacted by a trade magazine publisher from Chicago. They were in the pharmaceutical retail industry and they wanted me to shoot a cover and an inside layout about two marketing execs at Rite Aid drug stores.
So the idea was that we were going to photograph these guys in front, have a Rite Aid, drugstore holding baskets that were full of Rite Aid store, brand products. Instead of doing, you know, the usual corporate office stuffy kind of shots. And then I had to shoot some interiors in the store to go along with the article.
So I was on the phone with this woman for a good 45 minutes. We specked it all out. There’s a really good budget for the job. I was stoked. Like this was going to be a nice gig, good paying the whole deal at the very end of the conversation after we’ve already got the date set and everything she’s like, Oh, and by the way, I need the cover shot on medium format transparency, film.
The interiors can be digital, but she goes on to explain that their printers still prefers transparencies for the covers. Now, at this point, my heart drops. I mean, by now I’m fully digital. I don’t own a film camera and it’s easily been six years since I exposed a piece of film at that point. So I’m looking at the budget for this project and I don’t want to pass on this.
So I told her I could do it, but since I was full of digital, I told her, I would have to add in the cost of a camera rental and film processing and an assistant because of having to work with multiple formats. Lucky for me, she agreed to the additional costs. And I hired a photographer that I had known for many years because he was still shooting film.
So I shot the cover with his camera, paid him the rental fee. And as my assistant, I basically paid him to set up the camera, load the film, take the meter readings. Make sure that I was shooting at the proper exposure and then hand me the camera. And that’s how I got the job done, because I wasn’t feeling confident that I was going to be able to expose the transparency film properly.
I did the rest of the work and it worked out great. But it was almost a matter of regretting giving up film.
Wow. That is, that’s an excellent story, which leads me to my next question. Just to put you in the hot spot, because I’m kind of getting a feeling from that answer that you really don’t want to go back to shooting film.
Oh, Robert. So please don’t be offended, but there is one lesson I learned from my mother that I try to honor to this day. I avoid four letter words, Robert, so obviously film, but also, you know, like auto, uh, pose Sony. Um, what’s that, what’s that brand. Uh, Oh Fuji. So, you know, I just, I, I’m not, I’m not a four letter word kind of guy Robert.
So I, in all seriousness, I am really glad that I learned on film because film forced a certain discipline. If you’re shooting color transparency, film, you know, you put your heart and soul into shooting something, and then you wait seven days to find out how bad to suck, right? Film, forced a discipline. And with digital it’s on the photographer to maintain that discipline. Because of course we have instant feedback, which is great.
I mean, I love it, but I definitely appreciate that discipline. That film helped me develop. You know, I occasionally teach a college course at Muhlenberg College and my wife is also a professor there. So I have access to a dark room anytime I want. And probably once a year, I have five minutes where I start thinking that I should go and I should monitor a couple of classes and spend some time in the dark room just for fun.
And indeed that thought lasts for about five minutes. And then it’s like, who am I kidding? I don’t have the patience to do that at this point. I just, I just really don’t have the interest.
Okay, good. So I want to know your response to the young generation because people our age, I think we’ve embraced digital and we’ve moved on. Not that I don’t like film. I do enjoy film and I, and I’m dabbling in going back and shooting some film, but to the new people out there that shoot film and then scan the negative to manipulate it in Photoshop. What advice could you give them?
Have fun. I think it’s cool. Now look, I know some people are going to be mad at me for saying this, but there is one thing where I do take exception to many of the film shooters to say that I shot film.
Look, that’s not a badge of honor. I mean, honestly, who gives a crap at the end of the day, when people look at your pictures, the only people that care that you shot film. Are other people with cameras, right? Your clients don’t care, your subjects don’t care. You know the thing about creativity in general, at some point you have to come to terms with the fact that creativity is a very selfish endeavor.
Now I don’t mean that it’s bad. I just mean, look, we do it for us. I’ve never met the person who picked up a camera for the very first time, because they wanted to create for somebody else. Nobody picks up a camera for that reason, it’s a selfish thing. But then when we get to the point where we’re brave enough, and it is actually about being brave enough to share our work, regardless of the venue, whether it’s social media, whether it’s just a friend at that point, we have to learn to accept the fact and embrace the fact that no other human being will have the same experience that we do.
With our photographs. So, you know, by boasting or insinuating that there is certain value to your images because you shot film. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous because it’s kind of like saying to me, well, I should appreciate this more because you did it on film. It’s like saying, you know, oil paints are better than watercolors or, or whatever.
I mean, most artists would take exception to that at the end of the day. And the idea of shooting film, and then scanning it and all that stuff. It’s just another creative methodology. So it really doesn’t bother me. I mean, I certainly feel like it’s a ridiculous amount of work and that’s why I wouldn’t do it.
But it’s not up to me to tell another person how they need to practice their craft.
I gotta agree with you completely. And I love how you added the attitude because I think that’s what really turns me off a lot. I think the, um, the younger generation is looking to figure out the magic of film, but then they immediately want to scan it to manipulate it.
And I just tell them you’re doing digital the hard way. Why are you doing it this way? It doesn’t make it special. The process doesn’t make it special. If the image doesn’t communicate, that’s my take. And I glad that you and I are on board with that same thing, because I could not see doing a commercial project with film.
It would, it would have to be digital. That’s that’s the, that’s the area we’re in. I don’t want to go back and I want to go to my car dealership and buy a car and ask for roll-up windows. I do like the automatic window. So let’s stick with that. All right. So. We’ve talked a little about, about your photography and we’re going to get back more into that later on, but I want to know the real Joe, Joe, what are you doing in your spare time when you’re not shooting
Well for the last year, life has not even been remotely normal. So my challenge is I’m a workaholic. The great part about my situation is that I don’t feel like I’ve had a real job. Most of my adult life in the sense that I’ve always been working and doing something that I enjoy. So it’s never felt like a job. And when it does begin to feel like a job, then I know I’m pursuing the wrong creative path.
I mentioned last week in our conversation, I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up, but there will be a camera involved. I’m blessed. I have a wife who’s incredibly tolerant and supportive of what I do. I have two dogs that while they own me and a son and a daughter-in-law and two grandkids.
So the spare time concept has been a bit challenging in the last year. So at this point when I’m not working. I actually just kind of shut down completely and veg in front of a television, which I actually find lots of creative inspiration in movies and TV.
Okay. That, that sounds pretty good. So photography is your drug. Well, you did mention that you had Vedge out in front of the TV and I kind of have a similar problem. It’s it’s almost like we go 90 miles an hour. And if we slow down, we just reach a stop very quickly. And especially last year. I did spend quite a bit of time in front of the, the dumb tube that just makes you, it’s not a smart TV. It’s a dumb TV. But what was your favorite show to binge on in the last year?
There are a few Netflix and Amazon series that I particularly loved because they were, they were great stories, but they also had incredible cinematography. The Queen’s Gambit and the Marvelous, Mrs. Maizel were both just brilliantly done in the sense that they were great stories and they were incredibly well cast.
But visually, they were absolutely stunning. And I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the work that set designers and costume designers do along with the lighting people and the cinematographers and film and TV.
I do very similar and I would suggest you take a look at Peaky blinders. Oh my God. I’m telling you right now.
There’s a scene where they start, they’re walking down the alleyway, but it they’re backwards. Uh, and the images reversed and you’re walking Janet, and it’s not entirely clear. So as a photographer, I’m thinking slightly out of focus, or they’re going to walk into the focus frame, or maybe there’s some kind of filter over it.
And then all of a sudden, the camera pans up and you were looking at their reflection in a mud puddle. And that just blew my mind. I was hooked for the rest of the show. So that comes style of cinematography really, uh, that a bit of magic really, really appeals to.
Oh, for sure. I am definitely a student of creativity.
I appreciate anything that I’ve never seen before. I mean, really that’s the key and I love to see things that make me pay attention because I’ve never experienced it prior.
Great. Well, going back to photography just a little bit, cause we’ve got a little bit of insight of what you do in your downtime, which is basically you’re turning the reigns over to your wife because you’re a photographer at heart and that’s your drug.
I would like to know I’m wearing my Fuji shirt. I love the way the Fuji feels. In my hand. I love the images that I can create with that camera. And I know that you went full time to Olympus sometime ago, and I want. Why that brand, because that brand really has not been on the forefront of most people mind.
Um, even though I believe they’re the ones that came out with TTL meter and for flash
Olympus is responsible for so much of the technology that we have today. I mean, in-body image, stabilization, eye tracking, auto focus. Those are all Olympus features that Olympus brought to market. First. My path to Olympus started probably almost 10 years ago now.
Sony was on the market with their mirrorless cameras. And like I said, I’m always looking forward. So the idea of an EVF, the electronic viewfinder, and seeing the finished picture in real time as you’re shooting to me, that concept was just off the charts. Amazing. So I had actually switched from Nikon to Sony a few years before I made the Olympus move.
And the challenge I had as soon as I switched. And it was it wasn’t a very well thought out switch. I switched. And then of course I realized that I didn’t like the ergonomics of the early Sony cameras. And at the time they only had like four lenses. So, you know, in their defense, this was very early in their system and everybody was using adaptors and putting Canon lenses on them.
And full disclosure, adapters have come a long way. But unfortunately, I remember when adapters just playing sucked period, they were horrible. So I still had this thing about adaptors and I just, I just couldn’t get comfortable with a Sony’s. So I went back to my Nikons with all prime lenses, because I couldn’t afford to buy a full kit.
So I went back with all primes, which actually was, I found very invigorating because it, it made me pay more attention to my shooting style and composition. By not using zooms problem still was, I really wanted an EVF and then another year or so goes by and Nikon of course was still dragging their feet.
I mean, Nikon and Canon were both slow to get it together with the mirrorless cameras. And as much as everybody was like, Oh, they’re never going to get there. It was inevitable that they were going to do it. It just came down to, was I willing to wait long enough? So by that time, I had started doing the YouTube channel.
I was using Panasonic to shoot my YouTube videos. And just basically, you know, from casual internet knowledge kept hearing it. Yeah. Micro Four Thirds, not that good for still photography. So I never really paid a lot of attention to it until my GH5 arrived. It was a nice spring day. I was kind of lazy.
Didn’t feel like working. So this camera shows up and I was like, you know, everybody say these things are not good for still pictures. Let’s go find out. So I stuck a lens on it, and ironically, I was using Olympus lenses on the Panasonic cameras, but I went out to a park for the afternoon and I shot stills with the came back and pixel peeped that crap out of them.
It was kind of like, what’s the issue here. I’m not seeing a problem with these images. So then I started getting a little bit more curious about micro four thirds started doing the research. Anything I read was like, if you want stills and micro four thirds, You got to shoot Olympus. If you want to do video on micro four thirds, you go to Panasonic.
So I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. I was feeling a little gun shy after my Sony experience. Another six months went by and I decided I would rent one. So I rented an Olympus EM-1 Mark II and a 45mm F 1.2 pro lens for a weekend. Had it for like three days. Did two shoots with it that weekend and loved the way the camera felt and worked.
I was really concerned about the size, especially given that, you know, I’m big on ergonomics and the Olympus cameras are so much smaller than an Nikons. But it literally was like a baby Nikon. Every button just made sense where it was. So I send this camera back after three days and then I realized, all right, I’m an idiot.
I just played with it for three days, but now I’ve got like 70 questions. Is it going to do this? And it’s going to do that. Like all these things I should have tried, but I wasn’t organized. So I rented one again, went through my checklist and it checked off all the boxes. And then literally just by chance, I was at PhotoPlus in New York, right after that.
And I met Gavin Hoey, who of course is a British ambassador for Olympus. He put me in touch with the marketing people that were at the show and they offered to give me a kit to try out for a couple of months. So the irony of this whole story is I live about 12 miles from the Olympic North American headquarters.
And never considered using their cameras. I drive past their headquarters frequently. So I had to kit for a little over two weeks and I was sold. I loaded up a credit card purchase my first Olympus system gear and called their marketing person to set up a time to drop off the loaner kit. And her voice was like totally dejected.
She assumed I wasn’t happy with it, but I had just bought into the system and was already putting my Nikons up for sale. So within another week, All my Nikon gear was gone, mainly because I knew if I kept it around, I would just keep finding lazy excuses to use it. So I went with Olympus and I’ve never looked back.
There’s there’s so many things that I like about the system and yes, full disclosure. I’m an Olympus ambassador, but taking all that out of the conversation, the Olympus cameras checked off all the boxes for me. The ergonomics are outstanding. The image quality for me is everything that I need. I’ve never felt disadvantaged with my micro four third system.
And a lot of people will be like, well, yeah, but you shoot mostly in a studio. And I do shoot mostly in a studio. But the fact of the matter is I shoot sports a couple of times a year. I chase my grandkids around with those cameras. I photograph my grandkids, running her all around their house with a camera set on auto ISO.
You know, I’ll go ahead. I’ll set my shutter speed for whatever activity they’re doing. I’ll set my aperture for how much leeway I want with the depth of field. And then I’ll shoot for hours with that camera on auto ISO. I have my back dial set for exposure compensation, so I can just monitor the camera’s metering.
And I’ve yet to come up with an image, even in a really dark spot to their home that I’m unhappy with. And in part it’s, because I actually like having a little bit of a film feel to my images. I’ll call it texture because I hate the word noise at this point noise. Unfortunately it has all the wrong connotations.
And, and the reason I say that if you were around shooting digital in the early two thousands, you know, Camera’s like the early in icons did Nikon D1. For instance, if I shot at ISO 800 with my Nikon D1, those images were pretty much unusable. The noise was, it was just horrible, digital noise and today’s cameras.
I don’t care what brand we’re talking about. I don’t care what the sensor size. It looks more like film, grain. It looks more like the texture that we see in film. And I find that little hint of texture. It has a little special something. I, like I said, I don’t want to go back to shoot film, but I do like that little bit of a film field, the smaller sensors have.
So it checks off all the boxes for me. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I haven’t run into any circumstances yet where I haven’t been able to accomplish what I need to with micro four thirds.
Oh, I think you’re absolutely correct. And having a full frame is not the band-aid that fits his bad photography.
So use the camera. That’s comfortable to you that checks all the boxes for your style of shooting and then go with it. And damn, the torpedoes is what I say, because I’m sure you get it as well. When I bebop around my, uh, with my Fuji, I just act surprised they walk up and like, Oh, Fuji XT3. Well, you know, that’s not a full frame and I’m like, what are you kidding me?
I thought this was medium format. I mean, it just, it just drives me nuts and we’re kind of getting along on this, the interview, but I do want to dive into some things that lets the listeners and your followers know a little bit more about Joe. So this is the part where we’ve gotten comfortable with each other.
We’re kind of like past our first and second date, and now I’m going to kind of like, Oh, give myself a little stretch and put my arm around Joe and get to know Joe. Better. So no, commentary after your answers. And we’re going to keep them as short as possible. So five questions, call it a speed round, similar to what you did to me.
So number one, number one question. And this is, uh, again, getting to know the real Joe. So Joe, tell us one thing that your wife does that sets you off.
Doesn’t it remember or save her passwords for her computer?
I don’t want to comment so much on that. We’re not going to number two, three things that you reach for in your refrigerator.
Ooh, Coca-Cola for sure. Um, butter, which I eat way too much of. Uh, an Apple
Didn’t see the Apple coming, but good choice. All right. Number three. Favorite length of your socks?
Slightly long crew socks. I’m not a knee-high guy, right, but, but they got to stay up so slightly long means those cruise stocks will stay up on my legs.
Okay. Love that. That’s that’s a really good choice. Favorite pair of pants
I’m a jeans guy. Black jeans.
Okay, good. And then, uh, the last question that’s just really kind of interesting to kind of give us an insight to your nighttime activities is which side of the bed do you sleep on?
If you’re looking from the foot of the bed, I’m on the left side.
So these two questions might require a little bit more thinking. So they’re a little bit more long warm. So if anyone alive or dead, someone that you would love to have lunch with, and what question would you ask them?
Wow. Well, I’ll tell you honestly, the reason why I’ve been enjoying doing all of these interviews, it’s kind of like being a kid in a candy shop.
By getting the opportunity to get inside of these amazing photographers minds. You know, I was a teenager learning, photography, learning black and white printing at the time when Ansel Adams Zone System was kind of all the rage. Right. But understand it all the rage back then just meant that every time you would pick up a popular photography magazine or a modern photography magazine, in other words, once a month, I’m kind of embarrassed to say, But I was learning photography, but I never truly learned the Zone System.
So I think one of the things that I admire about Ansel Adams is that he was not only a prolific shooter, but if you’ve ever seen or read any of his interviews, he was a guy that was really good aware of his thoughts and emotions as he was doing his work. And he always understood his why. He was very deliberate in his work.
So I think for me the short answer, it would be Ansel Adams. And I would like to have the master himself explained two things about the Zone System. One a better understanding, because I don’t understand that as well as I should. The better yet. Where the hell does it come from? I mean, how do you just show up one day and develop a whole exposure system?
I just, I would love to know his evolution of what got it started. How did he flush it out and basically get it to a point where he was kind of able to package that and show other people how to do it? I think it would be fascinating to know how that came about that.
That’s a good choice, you know? Uh, I’ve actually been asked that question before and, and I never chose Ansel Adams or any of the really famous photographers. Uh, the, the top echelon for lack of a better word, just because I, I felt like I wanted to know something different, but knowing the Zone System from the guy that came up with the idea, Would definitely be high on my choice. So Joe, it’s been great. We have one last question and this is not meant in any way to pull off any band-aids or creating any pain, but it is that I do think about a lot and I want to know your take when you’re passing in the sense that when you’re dead, what do you want your legacy to be?
What do you want to be remembered for?
Without getting really sappy? I’m a guy who’s been lucky enough to be working with photography and paying my bills with a camera for pretty much my whole life. I’m not going to be remembered as an Ansel Adams or any other name that you can think of. But I hope to be remembered as somebody that had fun, somebody that really enjoyed what he did and was passionate about it.
And who believed in sharing what he learned for the greater good, a big part of the reason why I do what I do today. It’s actually a legacy thing, Robert, but not so much for other photographers. It’s actually for my grandkids, every time I get in front of a camera, every time I talk about my career, every time I do a video, I know those things are going to outlast me and they’ll be here not only for photographers, but for my grandkids to see me and see my passion for what I do.
So. Hopefully it sets an example.
I love it. And you know, you can be sappy, but, um, I really wasn’t expecting the grandchildren angle, but I, I ha do you, because the legacy that you’re leaving with so many photographers that are creating images, similar to the ones that you want to share with your grandchildren.
You are creating and empowerment. Uh, no, you’re in, you’re creating a movement of photographers that care so much more about what we do than just the turn of a dollar or the turn of a moment. You have a very lasting impression on everyone. You meet as well as the followers that. Follow some, if not all of the things that you say, and I applaud you.
I appreciate that Robert. I appreciate it very much. And I thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Believe me, I can’t wait for this whole pandemic thing to at least be settled to the point where we can get back out on the road. And I can’t wait to see you. Thank you so much.
Thank you. You take care.
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Okay. I got to tell you, you never know what Robert is going to hit you with, but I promised you that I would answer the other questions that were submitted in the Facebook group.
So here we go. Joan Dooley asks. What was the turning point? When you were aware that you could turn your passion and creativity into a business? That’s a great question. Joan. I knew that I was going to be a photographer in high school, and my plan was to be a photo journalist. So back in the 1970s, That meant getting a job as a photojournalist.
So there really wasn’t any business thought. I mean, I was doing the occasional freelance job and definitely undercharging, but I wasn’t learning anything about running a business. I was focused on getting hired by a newspaper, which I managed to do just a few days after I graduated high school.
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Daniel Rainey’s question, Joe, I’ve heard your story about coming close to business failure. At what point did you feel like you were succeeding or at least things were beginning to click?
Were there any projects that were pivotal to that transition? You know, ironically Daniel, I don’t know that I have ever felt like I’m really succeeding. I always feel like there is a, another summit to climb. I mean, to a certain degree, I also feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder because those early experiences made me very aware that if I don’t work hard and keep my act together, it could all end very quickly.
You know, I do think that the empathy that was shown to me by the bank manager, when I nearly defaulted on the loan, that certainly was a turning point. And because he was reassuring, it took so much of the stress away that I was really able to turn things around very quickly. I mean, truly from a business standpoint, I had no idea what I was doing.
Prior to that. I was handed a paycheck every week for taking pictures. So this was a whole new learning curve that I had never planned on.
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Fabrice Debray asked do you consider yourself a photographer and artist and or a teacher? Please? Elaborate on your answer. Wow Fabrice. Hmm. I would have to say all three and I’m pretty sure that’s why you asked me to elaborate. So first and foremost, a photographer period, as a young photographer, I hated being told that I was artistic or creative.
I know that sounds ridiculous. Right. But I associated photojournalism with storytelling and news and I was simply too naive to appreciate the creativity that I used to make images that told a story. Certainly as I matured, I realized how much creativity went into my work, but I would still struggle to call myself an artist.
Even today. I associate art with something that people want to hang on their walls. And I just have a hard time imagining people doing that with my work. Now I’ve learned over the last five years that I am probably a better teacher than I ever was. A photographer as a photographer, I am limited by my creative abilities.
Teaching is a skill set that can be developed and honed. And fortunately I have over four decades of experience with a camera that I can draw on when I teach. So I’m really lucky to be able to do both at this point.
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James asks, if you had the opportunity to photograph any person living or formerly living, who would it be and why did you choose them?
Wow. The honest answer is anyone that I haven’t already met or photographed. I find people fascinating. It’s honestly more about the interaction and experience than it is the photograph for me.
But if we’re talking about doing something creative and photographing somebody don’t laugh, but it would be Lady Gaga. I would love to collaborate with her and blend my creative style with her style and talent. That that would be a dream.
Crystal Kubeczka wants to know what inspires your creativity. How do you always come up with new creative ideas? And what is one thing that you haven’t done yet that you would like to do? What inspires my creativity?
Drugs? No, I’m kidding. I swear I was a good boy. I’ve never even tried a cigarette, but you know, at this point in my life coming up with creative ideas, it’s a habit.
It is a skill that I have practiced and embraced for decades now. And it’s just the way that I think. See for me, the definition of creativity is not about art. Creativity is problem solving as the great Steve jobs said it is about connecting the dots. I’m always looking for connections and solutions. So when I teach, instead of trying to tell people what to do, I try to go back to when I was experiencing what they’re experiencing and help them understand why they should do certain things and how to do it.[As for inspiration. Also part of that habit that I’ve worked so hard to develop is learning to see, not just looking at the world around me and taking it for granted, but paying attention to the details. And I am truly inspired by other people’s creativity, but not necessarily photography, creativity. I’m actually a big fan of TIK TOK.
There are people on TIK TOK doing some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. And in terms of what I haven’t done, that I would like to do this changes every day, you know, whatever I shot today or yesterday, he’s cool. And I’m grateful for it, but I’m much more excited for whatever shot is about to come.
Hence my best shot. It’s my next shot.
Antoine Schemkes asks, what is your motivation to teach? This came up briefly at the end of my conversation with Robert, but it truly is to give back for the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with and to leave a legacy for my two grandkids so that when I’m gone, they will hopefully admire what their grandfather did and the values that he stood for.
Joe Cu wants to know how do you keep yourself from getting overwhelmed when doing photography, making YouTube videos, plus being a brand ambassador and being pulled in many different directions. What keeps you centered?
Actually, Joe, I kind of embrace the idea of being overwhelmed. I’m a person who has to stay busy.
I do force myself to take breaks from my wife and family, and I do disconnect during those times so that I can enjoy other aspects of life. But I’m one of those people, especially at my age, I am very aware that life is short. I’m having too much fun. So I keep myself very busy so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting any of that time.
Paul Sutton wants to know, looking at other people’s work. What inspires you the most with your photography? What do you find inspiring and other people’s work?
Great question, Paul and I actually try not to look at a lot of other photographers work for a few reasons. One, it is a depressing reminder of the fact that I’m good, but not that good.
There are so many photographers who are much more talented too. I appreciate other photographers work for the technique, but not for the experience. I mean, I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the experience that they had. Photography for me is about the experience with the people that I photograph. And I think three, I want my work to be influenced by my life.
And my experience is not by someone else’s by not studying other photographers work and not copying other photographers. My work may not be the best photography in the world. But I am the best at my work.
So there you have it folks, if you’re still listening, thank you so much for your support that will do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT Photography podcast.
Be sure to tune in next week. I have an interview with another awesome photography couple in the meanwhile, 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.
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