I was fortunate to be interviewed for The Pro Photographer Journey Podcast recently about my work and marketing.
You can listen to the interview below.
I was fortunate to be interviewed for The Pro Photographer Journey Podcast recently about my work and marketing.
You can listen to the interview below.
The second thing that people often ask after what I do for a living is “how did you get into that”
I must admit to often asking the same of others I meet as either I’m just nosey or intrigued about the work paths people follow in life.
I always tell my children although all are quite young still ( I was a late starter) you are a long time working so find something you love and make a career in that.
One of the beautiful things about photography is that there are no set ways into it. You can go and get a degree, attend part-time evening classes, assist or simply teach yourself.
Not being the academic type I chose the self-taught route with a short stint as a rather poor assistant.
Ultimately it is the work you produce rather than how you got here that counts at the end of the day.
My journey was rather as my mum would say arse backward!
My father had an interest in photography and this is definitely where my interest initially came from at around 14 years of age. This did not last for long and for whatever reason I sold my camera and moved onto other interests or 5-minute fads as my mum would call them (she had a phrase for many things in life and most not printable!).
As a teenager, my interests turned to riding Vespa and Lambretta scooters to rallies and events across the UK with my friends.
This was the 80’s and by August of 1984 at the age of 16, I decided I wanted to build a custom show scooter.
Another passion I had inherited from my dad was the love of Greece with its rich history and of course mythology.
This was to be the theme for my scooter build and decided to travel around the archeological sites of Greece for a week for further inspiration.
This trip turned out to be the catalyst for my lifelong love of photography.
I borrowed my dad’s very impressive camera kit consisting of Canon A1 and several lenses including a monster of a 200mm zoom.
Looking back I think I probably enjoyed the attention I received from having such an impressive looking camera around my neck.
In 1985 the scooter was completed titled “Chariot Of The Gods” and it won several awards at many of the shows I attended.
It was around this time a national magazine was launched called Scootering which I approached and started to freelance for.
I couldn’t believe it I was actually getting paid albeit very little to shoot the people, scooters, and places in the scooter scene which at the time was my life ..I was hooked and decided this was the career I wanted.
I needed to learn faster so I consumed as much knowledge about photography & printing as I could and enrolled onto a home study course with the New York Institute Of Photography to learn the fundamentals.
This also allowed me to study while still working in the family Carpet & Furniture business.
Most of my knowledge was then gained by large amounts of shooting and note taking, so basically much trial and error.
Approaching the late 80’s an opportunity to start my own business came along with the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme together with the Princes Youth Business Trust.
This gave me a grant for equipment plus a loan of £1000.00 to kick start my business. In January 1990 my business called Apollo Photographics was launched.
Looking back now I don’t know how the hell I thought I was ready to enter business especially as my photography was still very raw to put it kindly but as Nike say “Just Do It” and indeed I did.
Business, however, did roll in coming from small local businesses, local papers, and tourist boards.
Circa 1991 with no apparent fear I booked an appointment to show my work to Somerset-based Clarks Shoes and incredibly came away with the biggest shoot to date which gave me my first real big break into Advertising work.
The job went well and I apparently became flavour of the month and more work followed from Clarks for the following 12-18 months and I thought I had made it ….but I was very wrong!.
Photography can be a cruel bitch and you can never sit back and relax for any length of time especially in the digital age where everything changes so quickly.The country went into a recession and work did go very quiet.It was around this time that another client who probably recognised I needed a photographic reality check got me a day assisting a friend of their’s who was a well-established advertising photographer based in Bristol called Colin Peacock.
That client was right Colin’s studios and his work were an incredible wake-up call for me and I quickly realised how little I still really knew.
I was lucky with my timing in that Colin was in need of a second assistant so I ended up putting my business on hold and staying with him for around 9 months.
We worked on many large-scale shoots for well-known clients. The most memorable being a day at St James Palace in London shooting a royal portrait of Princess Alexandra.
Eventually however, I got itchy feet and despite knowing I still had much to learn I left Colin to continue on my own.
I know he rated my chances of making a living in photography at exactly 0 and at that point looking back, I would have to agree with him.
However quoting my mum once again she would say “Your like a dog with a bone once you get a bee in your bonnet” meaning I’m quite a tenacious bugger if I get an idea in my head and for me not being a Photographer never entered my head for a second.
So as you can see my path was indeed slighly arse backward but passion, hard work, eagerness to keep learning and a refusal to give up is what has guided me this far and still does. Yes it can be hard and yes Ive had doubts probably at least once a month but pack up and do something else ?… nah I’m like a dog with a bone.
Erwin Olaf has been one of the top advertising and people photographers in the world for over twenty-five years. His current show Waiting: Selections from Erwin Olaf: Volume I & II is being exhibited at the Hasted Kraeutler Gallery in New York. While continuing to do innovative commercial work, he has increasingly become focused on his personal work. I had a recent opportunity to ask about his career and future artistic ambitions.
Ken Weingart: How did you get started in photography?
Erwin Olaf: I started out doing School for Journalism in Utrecht, the Netherlands. One of the courses had some photography in it, and after doing some photography, one of my teachers really encouraged me to continue with it, and I fell in love with it.
In your fine art work, what are you trying to say, or achieve?
In my personal work I want people think about the subtext of the photograph. I create a highly stylized look in photography, which draws in the viewer… and once they are ‘lured’ in by the ‘beauty’, I hope they then get the second message or concept as to what exactly is different for each series.
How do you come up with your ideas?
Usually just by sitting on my couch a lot, and looking out of the window. I love my house. But seriously, I get ideas from everywhere, traveling and staying in anonymous hotels (Hotel series, 2010) to my relationship with my Mother (Separation, 2003), or growing older (Mature, 1998). Inspiration can come from anywhere.
What are the commissions you enjoy the most? What types of clients do prefer to work with?
I enjoy commissions that are demanding, that trigger me to do something new, and combine with a little of what I already know. I like intelligent, trusting clients, who come to me because they trust me do something with them that exceeds our expectations. I am not fond of clients who just want me to do my ‘trick’.
Do you find editorial more interesting and gratifying than advertising, and what is more important, commercial work or fine art/ personal work?
My personal work is the most important to me right now. There was a time when the commercial work allowed me freedom to do my personal work, but now the personal work does that in itself, which is great. I like commercial work, as long as it is challenging and inspiring. Editorial is not really more interesting than advertising, its just a different field. It is also exciting, but totally different, with a different agenda.
How would you describe your lighting? Some might call it painterly; how did you learn and evolve into this type of lighting?
By visualizing and taking the proper time to light someone or something. You use your eyes and learn by trial and error. It’s called painterly, because I used one light when I started out, and painters usually have only one main light.
What cameras and lights are you using — do you prefer film or digital? Are you using any special digital filters for post processing?
I use a Hasselblad with a digital back (phase 1). I don’t have a preference, but digital has made life easier. Right now I’m in the process of turning digital files into negatives so I can print my own silver gelatins again. Nothing beats a beautiful well-printed silver gelatin.
Hotel 2010 has a certain sexuality implied. How would you describe your connection to the images?
I have been to a lot of hotel rooms, and they were always a little depressing and sexual at the same time, and that is what I was trying to catch with my series. I think the sexuality has something to do with the anonymity of a hotel room, or the fact that they usually have good beds.
Self Portraits is very edgy, and also has a lot of sexuality in the images. Were they all photographed on the actual dates listed, and what is the overall objective, or it there one?
I have done many self-portraits because I think it’s an important photographic document of my state of mind. That’s the overall objective — to catch my mindset and development at the moment. In my 20’s it was very sexual, in my 50’s, I am occupied by my health issues.
Who are your favorite photographers and influences past or present?
I like filmmakers of the 70’s (Pasolini, Visconti), and photographers like Helmut Newton and Mapplethorpe. The list is very diverse, and changes every now and then.
In Hope and Rain series, many of the subjects are standing very rigid and upright. Does this tie into the theme of hope and rain, and what do you mean by hope and rain?
Hope and rain are metaphors. The people are standing rigid because they have just received really bad news (at least that what I imagined). With Rain the news was just delivered, with Hope it sets in, and the consequences become clear.
Your backdrops are very interesting and moody. Do you create sets with a set builder? Does this become expensive to create?
I work a lot with the same team (among them the set designer Floris Vos). We create a mood together, and he sets off to work with his team. Yes, it is very expensive.
How would you describe the way your art and career have been evolving since you started, and are you surprised by it?
I am very happy with the way it has been evolving, always changing, slowly moving in the right direction, always exciting, and as I always say… Never a dull moment. Right now I am extremely happy that I can focus mainly on my personal work, and continue to delve into that. Also, the recognition one receives from all the galleries and museums around the world is gratifying.
What are your favorite series and works to date, and what kind of ideas do you think you will be pursuing in the next few years?
In the next few years I would like to go back to the darkroom and do my own printing again — start working a little smaller, more intimate. I don’t have a favorite series. I have favorite pieces from each series.
Your film works, are they mostly personal works or assignments? Are you hoping to direct feature films?
I am going to direct a feature film, a book adaptation from a Dutch writer, Arthur Japin. My recent film works have been mostly personal, or part of installations (like the Keyhole, or Waiting).
Would you say there is a main theme, style, or point of view in your works that tie together both the print and the film?
There is no big main theme. For the installations they are obviously different perspectives or narratives of the same subject.
How do you like living in Amsterdam? What are the best and worst things about it?
I love living in Amsterdam. The best things are the canals, it’s small, we have many birds, my beautiful apartment. The worst thing: maybe it’s a little crowded, especially in the smaller old streets, and parking your car in Amsterdam is not ideal.
How do like your time the U.S.? What is most different about the U.S. for you?
People are always polite in the U.S. I love my time in the U.S. It’s a great unlimited very diverse country. But also you have a very tough society; its very dog eat dog. That is something I don’t miss so much at home.
About the author: Ken Weingart is a photographer based in Los Angeles and New York. He started out as an assistant for a number of renowned photographers, he he has since become an award-winning photographer himself with work that has been widely published across the world. You can see his work on his website and read his writing on his blog. This interview originally appeared here.
Image credits: Header portrait by Sebastiaan ter Burg
A new photo has emerged that purports to show the infamous outlaw “Billy the Kid” in his younger days, and the owner of the photograph is working hard to convince the world that it’s real. If he’s successful, the payoff could be grand: back in 2011, the only known photo of Billy the Kid was sold at auction for $2.3 million to Bill Koch, becoming one of the most expensive photos on Earth.
The new photo belongs to a New Mexico man named Ray John de Aragon, a well known Billy the Kid collector, who says the photo was given to his father from one of Billy the Kid’s friends.
Aragon has spent years trying to prove to the world that his “old family photo of Billy” is real. More recently, he enlisted the help of Houston Police forensic artist Lois Gibson, who’s well known for identifying the sailor in the iconic photo “V-J Day in Times Square.”
After analyzing the photo and comparing it to the single known photo of Billy the Kid, Gibson has concluded that Aragon’s image is indeed the real thing.
“You can see that it is the same chin, cheek, lip, nose, head shape, shoulder shape, same hair shape,” she tells the New York Daily News. A closer look at the photos also shows the same crooked teeth, she says.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Aragon previously sold another photo that purportedly showed Billy the Kid for $50,000. He will need to find solid evidence if he wishes to earn another big payday with this new photo. Gibson’s support is one big step in that direction.
Image credits: Photographs by Lois Gibson
The British government is scrambling to keep a rare photo album from the 19th century from being sold to a foreigner and exported from the nation. It announced today that it has placed a temporary export ban on the book, which contains seventy photographs by Swedish photography pioneer Oscar Gustave Rejlander.
Rejlander pioneered the art of combination printing, or combining multiple negatives to create one photograph. He settled in England in the 1840s and became known as a “father of art photography”.
“The Rejlander album is a truly remarkable compilation of images by one of the great pioneers of photography,” says Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, “I hope a UK buyer can be found so that the album can undergo further study here in the UK. It would also be a tremendous addition to the nation’s photographic archive.”
A number of photos in the album are famous works by Rejlander, while others are relatively unknown and of interest to researchers. Here are some of the pages in the book (the first image shows Rejlander himself on the left):
The export ban was issued after authorities determined that the album “was of outstanding significance for the study of the history of photography and for our wider understanding of nineteenth century art.” The album was sold for over $130,000 at an auction in England late last year.
The ban will be lifted later this year unless a buyer from the UK can be found. The UK government is now looking for someone willing to purchase the album for around £82,600 (~$128,000). If that’s you, you can contact authorities at the number listed here. For the rest of us, there’s a digital copy of the album online that we can browse.
Stunning time lapse by astrophotographer Brian Spencer in New Mexico. Using a collection of sliders, cameras, and patience, Spencer was able to capture this beautiful time-lapse highlighting both the beautiful night sky of New Mexico, and the world we view it from.
Beautiful video of Turkey showing the people & amazing locations well worth a watch.
Even if you’re new to this site, I’m pretty confident you’ve seen some sort of article about this unique photo series in which Michael Paul Smith builds intricate models and photographs them to recreate scenes from his imaginary childhood. Even I marveled at the fact that these were photographs of 1/24 scale models and not real scenes from history. Soon, Smith will be releasing a book called “Elgin Park” in which he explains his creative process and his life. If it is anything like the video above I will absolutely read it.
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I first came across the work of Colorado-based photographer Drew Lundquist in 2013 when he was working for the powerhouse advertising agency Elevendy. Lundquist is a composite photographer who specializes in what he labels “theatrical special effects photography.” His composite work is extremely clean with an immaculate attention to detail. Everything from his compositions to his color work leaves you wanting to see more and more. Lundquist’s work has been featured numerous issues of Advanced Photoshop Magazine, and his work is the cover image for the current edition of The Professional Photoshop Book. Lundquist is well on his way to becoming one of the big names in the compositing game. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to check out his work.
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