Don’t you wish that learning Photoshop was as easy as snapping on a lens? Unless you’ve been stuck under a rock for the last 20+ years, you already know that learning Photoshop is one of the things about photography that you either enjoy completely or avoid at all costs. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and complex.
Dave Cross, a Photoshop instructor based in Florida, would agree. Learning it takes a great deal of patience, but if you were to really stick it out, the rewards could be boundless. Since 1987, he has been teaching Adobe products to photographers and other creative professionals and has taught an easy-to-understand approach to the mastering it. He’s one of most prominent — and one of our favorite — educators around.
In this interview, we asked Dave a few questions about his beginnings in Photoshop and got him to explain why using layers can make Photoshop much easier to use.
Natalie Kita, a high-end boudoir photographer based in Delaware, prefers simplicity. Putting aside conceptual projects where ideas become more important than people, Kita has carved out a sizable following for her intimate, in-the-moment shoots that emphasize the unique beauty of everyday women.
Believing that a boudoir shoot can be a “life-changing experience,” Kita goes into every shoot with a practiced understanding of how to make a client comfortable with the camera and, most importantly, with the client’s own body. In this interview, we wanted to learn a little more about Kita and find out how she got started, while also trying to uncover a few practical lessons on shooting one of the most demanding genres of photography.
“The Gods,” a series of photographs made by the Scottish photographer Ivar Wigan, takes its title from a nickname given in Atlanta to those who survive street life long enough to look back, each now a veteran of a hard-fought life. Wigan spent over eight weeks researching, meeting, befriending, and, ultimately, photographing the people of Atlanta, staying late at its strip clubs, where dancers perform without stigma, and at parties that collapsed into the morning.
As an outsider far removed from the culture’s intricacies, there was a risk of projecting bias or ignorance. Wigan refrained from photographing until he was sure he had permission. “It’s not possible to make this kind of work without developing relationships,” he told me. “To make this kind of work the artist needs to be working from within the scene he is representing.”
As a fashion photographer, business owner, and teacher, Lindsay Adler photography has made a brand for herself in the world. And the clearest distillation of this brand might be her line of ebooks and videos that work through the mystery of creating good images by meeting it halfway. You can teach only so much about photography, and the part of deciding when to press the trigger may be ultimately unteachable. So, instead, her videos show new photographers what part does what and by how much — as, say, a dance instructor might impress upon you when to move your feet where, giving you some idea of what it’s like to feel your body moving on beat, but never truly giving you a way to feel what all the back and forth actually means.
While shooting, Adler is firm but positive. She believes in empathizing with the person photographed. Against a trigger-happy, aggressive approach that comforts the one doing the shooting with an ever greater amount of shots, she prepares beforehand and collaborates with her team on set to minimize a sitter’s time in front of a camera. It’s her brand of creativity, photography, and teaching that has won her financial success and critical notice. And it’s why we wanted to speak with Adler about her ideas on photography.
In 2012, the last time Frank Doorhof spoke to us, he had recently joined Kelby Training as a workshop lecturer and was already gaining international recognition for his glamour, fashion, and commercial portrait photography. How have the previous four years treated him? Well, it turns out that he hasn’t lost any steam. He’s still making exciting work while gaining more and more fans every day.
For this interview, we wanted to revisit our first conversation with more personal questions. Instead of asking about technique, we wanted to ask about Doorhof’s journey into commercial portrait photography. We wanted to know more about him. We learned, for example, that Doorhof was bullied when he was young — “without a doubt, this forced me to improve myself constantly” — and that photography, in its way of putting you in front of others no matter how you feel, has given him a way to find his most open, friendly, and generous self.
Trying to tell somebody what you loved most of Parker Day’s model portrait photography after one look is like being asked which part of a landscape you noticed while riding a roller coaster. Windswept and twitchy, you’d probably pick what’s most obvious and readily brought back to mind. “I don’t know — the blue sky, I guess,” you’d probably say. This is also true with the Los Angeles photographer’s portraits. They are high energy. All the loud character, fluorescent greens, and candy-apple reds, captured in vibrant 35mm film, have a way of making every detail jump out in high speed until all that’s left to remember is color.
To be fully appreciated, each portrait should be seen slowly and with a careful eye. Not doing so may cause you to veer into a funhouse of interpretive strands, making the ride a little too bumpy. There’s a lot going on, and her portraits celebrate this particularity: they both relish the fine detail and also recognize a particularity individual to every person. Together, they’re a triumph of difference —even if they’re emboldened by color and persona. What better way to satirize heteronormative ideals than to offer a world of three-eyed waitresses, chocolate-eating mermaids, or disco-dancing mutants? Is it a bit campy? Sure, but it still makes you wonder who these characters are being compared to. Which imagined sameness are they supposedly transgressing? Give me more of this than anything normal and sane, I say.
I spoke to Parker Day about her model portrait photography work over email.
Morell Photography demands attention from the viewer.
In 1991, Abelardo Morell captured something that might have never been photographed before. Even though many people had seen what he saw, Morell was the first to make a career capturing the images that come to life when using a camera obscura. Taking around eight hours to properly expose on 4 x 5 film, each photograph is a jumbled puzzle of interiors and exteriors. One way to read them is to do so in shorthand. You can, for example, use all the shapes, colors, and signs that you see above to conjure up Times Square. It would be easy. Nobody would call you crazy, but to do so would obscure a more important reading.
Making what’s inside the picture fit an image inside your head falls back on a way seeing that these photographs try to cancel. Morell photography asks for a different way of seeing: they remind you that it’s okay to imagine something else. If you want to see beyond the appearance of things, who cares? The logic of his photographs is the same of a dream. You can, as you did as a kid, let one shapeshifting fantasy unfold to the next, see shadows and light play out on the ceilings, floors, and walls like stories, all being created and destroyed out of nothing.
I spoke to Morell over email about how he got started and about what he thinks about his process.
In a short piece written for Photo Booth, The New Yorker’s photography blog, Hilton Als, author of White Girls and the magazine’s theatre critic, introduced the work of a few students he taught in 2014 at Yale’s Graduate School of Art. “I learned something exciting,” he wrote then. “Just as literature is opening up to cross many genres in a single work, photography is opening up to incorporate many genres and ideas.” The students’ work had left behind a desire to capture any single truth and instead described a world where “there were many stories to be told, sometimes all at once. The point was to tell them as specifically as possible.”
Isabel Magowan was one of the portrait photography artists featured in Als’s article. Wary and circumspect, Magowan is highly self-conscious while making a portrait. She’s aware that a camera may cause discomfort, even alarm. “I feel uncomfortable because I am unsure about what I am seeing,” she noted. “Ambiguity and contradiction speak to me because they are inherently uncomfortable, and this discomfort is what I find myself wanting to explore.” Here, Magowan talks about her approach to making portraits and about her thoughts of photography in general.
I was drinking tequila in the back of a beat-up Ford Explorer with my girlfriend, my sister, and a couple of friends the night I discovered Otis Ike’s work. We were in Woodstock, New York, to see an exhibition co-curated by the photographer Juan Madrid. Eating at a Thai restaurant, moments after the tequila, I asked a group of artists and writers with us if they had noticed a photograph of two men wrestling in blood. No, they said, picking at their food, as if I were crazy and hadn’t said a thing. While I’m unsure I remember the night word for word, I do remember describing how strange the photo was. It was, to start, a photo of two men interlocked in a gruesome hug — one giving a chokehold and another receiving it. The strangest thing, though, was that the man receiving the chokehold, the man who seems to be swimming in his own blood, was grinning. He was laughing, I told them, as if he just overheard a good joke or learned that a good friend was in town.
That photograph, shown above, was taken by Otis Ike(a self-taught photographer) and was on display at the exhibition we traveled to see that night. I would later find out that Otis Ike is only a nickname. Otis Ike’s real name is Patrick Bresnan. Bresnan started shooting photography in the 80s when his mother gave him her Canon AE-1. She would keep on supporting him as he practiced, even developing his 4×6 prints. Bresnan now lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Ivete Lucas. Their film, The Send-Off, was awarded at the South by Southwest Film Festival and had its world premiere at Sundance. Here, Ike talks briefly about this work and about his thoughts on shooting candidly.
In 1968, at the age of thirty-eight, Rosalind Fox Solomon a well-known fine art photography expert began shooting photography during a trip to Japan. She was living with a family who spoke little English and slept on their futon. The pictures were in color and mostly experimental. In the early 70s, Solomon would switch from color to a black-and-white square format and begin a forty-eight-year-long exodus from the suburban East Coast— settling, instead, in the role of far traveling portrait maker, shooting extensively in Israel, Peru, and South Africa, among others.
Now, at the age of eighty-five, Solomon’s fine art photography work is receiving the frequency of critical recognition that seemed to evade her. This past month she was featured at Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Brooklyn Museum. In February, her latest book, “Got to Go,” a collection of over seventy images that survey her work across time and geography, was published by MACK. The photographs all share an intensity of perception. They illuminate through an attraction to an unknowable interior, expressing the rough course of experience like a finely detailed biography or poem. Here, Rosalind speaks about the emotional and philosophical understandings of her work.