Interview with PDN’s Emerging Photographer Magazine
Q: What was your first big gig and how did you get it?
My first big break came i after my sophomore year in college while working as a photographer for UPI in Cincinnati. Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in Canton, Ohio. So I begged my way into covering his funeral. As the team was getting back on busses to leave the cemetery, I noticed Yankees manager Billy Martin out of the corner of my eye, breaking down in tears. I fired off a single frame as I was lifting the camera to my eye and then he was gone. That photo ended up huge in the New York Times the next day and in LIFE magazine just as I was starting journalism school at the University of Missouri. So I guess the lessons are: push for what you want, do not hesitate for even a second when you see a great photograph and don’t wait around for someone to tell you how to be a photographer – just do it..
Q: What Sony equipment do you use most often?
I’m shooting everything these days using a pair of Sony a900 cameras. If I had to get by with just one lens , my favorite lens ever is Sony’s Zeiss 24-70/2.8. It’s the sharpest zoom lens on the planet and the perfect range for portrait photography. Though fortunately I don’t have to choose just one lens…because I also love the Sony Zeiss 85/1.4, 135/1.8 and 16-35/2.8 lenses and the Sony G 35/1.4, 70-200/2.8 and 70-400/4.5-5.6.
Q: Tell me about your most memorable shoot.
I’ve been blessed with more than my share of great assignments, but it’s really hard to top flying to Richard Branson’s private Caribbean Island to photograph the British Billionaire standing on a tiny sandbar in the Caribbean wearing a spacesuit at dawn on Christmas eve morning for a Time Magazine article on Virgin Galaxy.
Q: What websites/books/magazines/blogs do you read/look at for ideas/guidance?
For starters, PDN Online and PDN Pulse, then Rob Haggart’s aphotoeditor.com blog is a good way to stay on top of what’s going on in the photography industry. Brian Storm showcases the best cutting edge multimedia projects on MediaStorm.com and of course, the members forum on Editorial Photographers’ is the best source of inside information about the business of editorial photography.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for your photography genre?
I photograph people and you learn that you have to “read” people very quickly so you can put them at ease. For some people being comfortable means being the center of attention. Those people are very easy to deal with,. You just make sure everything is about them. But most people are less comfortable being in front of a camera and that’s even true of stars that have been in the spotlight for decades. In those instances, quiet conversation is the best way to go. The best thing you can do is to get their minds off the photo shoot and finish shooting before they ever feel any pain.
Q: What’s the single most important piece of advice you’ve received as an emerging photographer?
When I was first starting out, I took my portfolio in to the chief photographer at a newspaper hoping to land an internship. He told me that to be a good photographer you have to learn how to get close to people. So he told me to put away my telephoto lenses and go out and introduce myself to 50 strangers and shoot a portrait of each them. That was absolutely the best advise I’ve ever been given.