Q&A #27: Alex Palombo

Alex shares his journey as a photographer: how he infuses fun in his work, strives for authenticity, and his decision to rent rather than purchase equipment.

Leigh Lim: Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your Instagram page, a section (“all around goofy guy”) of your mini bio jumped out. Do you find that it helps remind people you work with that even though the work is serious they won’t be bored whenever they work with you? (Or that’s more on you outside of being a photographer…and with shoots you’re pretty serious and would like to make the turn-around for the work be as fast as you can? Or you’re just a plain fan of using profile images that you know would make people smile? Unless it’s more having to do with the platform? For example your Twitter Bio reads: “Alex Palombo is a New York City based fashion photographer with an eye for fun. Alex’s easy personality shows in his work which always exceeds expectations.” Which is quite formal.)

 Alex Palombo: Hi Leigh, No problem at all.  My pleasure. This is a cool thing you are doing.  

 

“All around goofy guy” was an attempt to show that I was not just a stick in the mud photog/human.  That I had personality, and like to have fun.  I feel too many people take themselves way too seriously.  “You just aren’t that important.  It’s not about you.”  I was trying to show that “hey man, I hear what you are saying, and I’m onboard let’s try to have fun while we are getting it done and make some kick ass work together.”

 

I try not to take too much seriously except the things that need to be taken seriously.  I do my best to stay away from drama, which is hard in my profession.  A lot of people think if you are not shaking your finger at someone or freaking out about something or everything isn’t on high alert than you don’t care and will do a worse job.  I am on the thought process of “those things actually hurt efficiency, clear rational thought, and creativity.”  I LOVE what I do when I do it, and I am good at it also-it’s not brain surgery-so lets have fun and if me being a dork at times helps with that so be it.

 

And yes, I do want to make people smile. I will nail what you need, so let’s enjoy it.  Does it remind people who I am?  Prob not, because most of them don’t know me.  Does it help professionally?  Who knows.  Probably not, for many of the reasons I stated above.  I sometimes think it works against me because people think I don’t take anything seriously and don’t care, which is 180 degrees from the truth.  I care a friggin s—load, so maybe the goofy thing is really a protection thing so I don’t get hurt.

 

HHMM, something to think about.

 

The thing is I’m not that goofy just a little at the right times.  I just think most people need to chill a little and if calls for me making them laugh then I am doing my part and making their day just a little brighter and that makes me happy.  The world might be a little nicer if we had more of this.  As for insta, yes I consider it more informal and personal than twitter, I don’t know why, however if my twitter sounds more formal I guess it is a good example of trying to find that good balance of professional and what people deem as “unprofessional”, because in this profession there is nothing written in stone.  It’s a free for all, until it isn’t.

 

The irony is that everyone will develop their opinions of me without ever meeting me and there is nothing I can do either way.  It’s all editing, I just try to be real to who I am.  One thing can’t describe me, and I can’t write a profile of who I am in 14 characters.  So I try to write one aspect that I like.  There are so many others, even ones I don’t even notice and takes others to see and let me know. 

LL: Is there a particular project that your fun-loving nature really paid off?

AP: Yes, I would say in most, however, one in particular was when I was shooting for Fitness magazine. They were a super fun group and we would basically joke around and have a lot of fun.  We got great images and all the shots we needed.

 

Within a couple months I almost shot the cover (which is a big deal seeing how I only shot for them at that point 2 or 3 times) which is because I could do the work but more importantly I think because of my personality.  One of my friends now is the former Art Director from there, I just went to her wedding in Atlanta.  Not only would she hire me again but she also knows we have a friendship and enjoys working with me because of it.

LL:  Why do you think you do the things you do?

AP: Everything I consciously do on this earth (and please don’t read into anything that I think I am on some other dimensional plane or anything such as that) is to make my life and those around me a little better.

 

Life is hard, really hard at times, and there is a lot of pain-so if I can make it any easier for myself or anyone else why wouldn’t I live for that?  I’m not saying I am always successful and haven’t hurt a lot of people or done stupid and bad things, I just try to honestly make my world a better place to be in, in my own way.

 

People matter, they need to know that.  Now if you are talking about why I do what I do in photo, it’s easy-I shoot fashion and fitness, that isn’t real life but if everything is pretty and beautiful and perfect maybe it makes the other parts of life that aren’t that a little more bearable and not as tough.  Also the crew I work with becomes a mini family which is something I didn’t have growing up(emotionally), so I get to create it making beautiful images.

 

In addition, I get to build and control my world in the view finder of the camera.  I get to control the chaos that is our world and put my creation down on paper(print).  Who wouldn’t want to be able to create a beautiful world where everyone looks good and life is a dream.  It’s not reality but helps us deal with it for a minute or two.

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

AP: BUSTING MY ASS.  haha.  But really.  Knowing I am as good or better than most of the people working out there.  And an incredible stubbornness to not quit.  There are two ways I can answer this: 1. the actual steps I did. 2. Actually how I feel I got to  where I am.

 

  1. Actual steps: Took a photo class in 12th grade and decided it was for me because I could not paint or draw and architecture was too much math and not creative enough. Went to art school, graduated, had odd jobs while I tried to assist. (Even was a guinea pig for a medication test-I don’t recommend that).

 

Eventually interned for free at a prominent photo studio in NYC, got hired full time, got fired, started working at another prominent photo studio part time while also working at a prominent EQ rental company as I tried to photo assist.  Eventual left those and photo and production assisted for a while (long while), did odd other things that all were in the industry (ie be a driver for talent etc.), eventually made a living assisting photogs, always test shooting, watching and learning, and trying to meet people.

 

Pounded the pavement, got a break here and there and got hired here and there.  And repeated that, until I was just shooting.  And got a buttload of help along the way.

 

  1. How I feel I got there: Again believing in myself and my talent, being stubborn as hell to persist when everything else said no. (including myself). Trying to be the best person I can be and ALWAYS working on myself.  Do my best to get out of the way of myself (I have been my biggest hindrance —- ah the irony…..ha).  Accept help, try to stay positive and live a healthy life.  And most importantly, accept who I am and use my strengths to get around my weaknesses and turn some of those perceived weaknesses in to strengths.  For me and I can’t stress this enough, always work to be better while being a good person.  And have fun doing it.  If you no longer are loving it, what’s the point?

 

I don’t have any mentors (which has made my path a little harder), however if there was one person that I owe so much to (and I prob could have asked him to be a mentor, but my pride is one of those things that not only works for me but that sometimes gets in my way as in this case), is the celebrity photographer Timothy White.  I assisted him for a number of years and what I learned from him from assisting, working, and being my friend is immeasurable, from every aspect of learning about being a photog.

 

Of course I did all this by observing because I didn’t have the courage to just ask for him to be my mentor.  (Which in itself is another great lesson-ASK FOR HELP).  It is so not just about taking a picture or knowing lighting.  Anyone can get that.  Let’s put it this way, I still use his advice, incorporate his process, and think about his perspective every day and not just in my career.

LL: You mentioned that you constantly were trying to be the best person you can be as well as working on yourself. Were there specific areas that you really struggled getting together?

AP: Haha. Yes, always trying to be better.  There are many areas that I have (and still do) struggle with.  But before I answer the next part I want to add, and this is important: is that everything has a plus and minus, a positive and a negative, and that it is really just how the thing is being applied that determines that.

I will give an example.  My hard time asking people for help.  It makes my life harder as I am doing everything on my own — however the positive in other aspects of my life is that it teaches me to be self-sufficient and if things fall apart I am confident in knowing how to get things done and am not helpless because I am used to having to learn and do all things on my own.

I’m competent.  So knowing that not everything is a negative and even our perceived negatives are positives also, we can accept them, work on them, and use them to our advantage.  It also stops us from putting ourselves down.

Now as for areas that I really struggled?  Yes, many —- and there continues to be — it’s part of what makes me, me. However, being aware of them and trying to accept and get on top of them and use them — that’s all I can do.  One example of an area that I have struggled with and have made great progress with and still need to is my habit of having to do things the hard way.  I can’t just do the easy thing, I have to “earn” it.  An example would be during my football game even though my team had way more talent than the other team, we had to keep them tied with us so we could win in double overtime.  It didn’t have to be that hard, but it being my team, and I the QB I made it harder.

This is a pain in the butt because it uses more energy, time, and keeps you under the radar which in photography is definitely not beneficial.  Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better and be on your way?  Life is generally better when it is easier. Not always, but most of the time.  I think most people can agree they wouldn’t want a hard life.  Working on this makes my life easier and more importantly more conducive to have a win. Whether it be football games, jobs, relationships, anything.  And people want to be with winners which makes more opportunity for more winning which creates more opportunities.  Winning also brings more confidence, which people also respond to and directly serves clients better.  Of course I still struggle with this, however I am sooo much better with it.

To follow up about the asking for help, yes I am so much better at it.  Do I still struggle with it at times, most definitely and a lot of times it is not easy, however I am finally smart enough now to say to myself: “Alex if you want what you want, you need to let go and get some help”.

Of course saying something and doing something are two separate things altogether. You just try to push yourself into that uncomfortable place and do it and hope the next time it comes easier. Again, easier said than done…ha!

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

AP: I do not have any particular photo books I refer to.  I have a few books I have gotten much inspiration from, (ie Robert Franks “The Americans”, Bruce Davidson’s “Subway”, and Henry Cartier Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment”) however I tend to not know a ton about other photogs and/or familiar with their work and rarely buy photo books.  But I def have my favs.

Bruce Weber, Avedon, Herb Ritz, Mario Testino, Ben Watts, etc.  I find it is a rare book that you keep going back to.  Outside of photobooks there are a few that I like to reread-mostly as a relaxation and for ‘me time’.

Two books I highly recommend to change the way you think and feel, Body for Life by Bill Phillips, and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  Both of these have nothing to do with photography in a literal sense, one is how to get in physical shape, and the other is to get in mental shape-however both pertains to success in changing your body and mind to better prepare you for this wild ride called life.

LL: Were there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

AP: There are frequently challenges in the process.  At least for me.  Some may have had it easy, and I wish that on everyone.  It wasn’t my path.

Now saying that did I struggle every day and have it as hard as some?  No, definitely not.  The thing here is that every individual has his or her own challenges and they could be a simple as English not being their first language, or they were born with a deformed hand.  Or even as unfortunate and basic as being ugly (and that is a real thing).

The on-set stuff is trying to figure out something such as one time I forgot a stand for the seamless (paper background) when I was on location and had to figure out how to get by without it.  That stuff is problem solving and I actually take great pleasure from problem solving both in photography and outside it.  So things such as getting creative on how to make a go around or rig something up-to me that is fun.  I love that challenge.

My biggest challenges and this is still to today is myself.  Getting out of the way of myself.  I know I said this before and I will again.  I am the biggest challenge to myself.  Any issues I have from when I was small to aspects of my personality that help me in other situations and hinder me in my career — those are the biggest challenges.

Look, photo is pretty simple: practice lighting, shoot a lot, and you will develop your style and talent.  That isn’t what makes a photographer.  You do.  Everything you bring to the table from every     experience you have had, who you are, what you are, that is what determines what you do.  And sometimes, just sometimes, s— luck.

So for me that has been the biggest challenge of my career.  For example, because of the tape recorder in my head (we all have one), my issues prevented me from asking Timothy to be my mentor.  Now would it have mattered? Maybe. Maybe not.

You can never play the “what if” game, however I do believe I missed an opportunity to make things go a little faster for my career.  Another example is when I was brand new to NYC and knew no one while working at the photo studio, David Lachapelle personally asked me to come with his entourage to his premier screening of his first film.  I turned it down because I had to work and didn’t want to just leave.  Was that an opportunity?  Of course!

However I realize now I turned it down because I was afraid to just go for it.  Of course at that time I used the excuse “I can’t bail out of my responsibilities”, when there could have been another solution.

The challenge for me has always been pushing out of my comfort zone and taking calculated risks.  And I am someone that does take risks!

And the motivation to keep pushing?  Easy, I had no choice, nor do I still.  I have to live my life this way (until I don’t anymore) the 9-5 corporate thing or whatever else is out there is death for me.  An average life, that at the end of the day, knowing I could have tried to do photo and didn’t give it a fair shot, or gave up, is plenty of motivation to keep me going. Even when it is hard.  And also please remember, there is nothing wrong with doing anything else — only for me it is.  And even that could change by the time you guys read this (hopefully not).

LL: Speaking of ‘risks’, I remember seeing on your Twitter profile photo a motorbike. Is that an aspect of your life that has been ‘riskier’ than most?

AP: Risk is interesting because it is so individual.  Not only is it individual, it also can fluctuate between yourself. Using the asking for help example, that is a risk for me in business and other things I do. Rejection, fear of someone thinking I am not skilled enough to do it, etc. — those are my perceived risks. However, if I would decide to take up pole vaulting, I would have no issue at all asking for help.  Not one bit. although that isn’t entirely true,

 

I have no idea how to pole vault —- I would try to figure it out on my own first —- however I would right away get over that and then ask for help. Ha!).  So what makes one scary and another totally not?  I also have no problem asking people for directions (most men do-haha).  That is asking for help though.  We can speculate why that is and I have my ideas, however that is another blog….

 

But as for your question about my motorcycle and risk there.  To me I feel no risk.  Do I know there is a risk, yes, I am not ignorant to the fact they do present risk, however I feel no risk (meaning I am not scared when I ride — and I love riding).  Are there times when I can feel risk? Of course (ie. ice, idiot drivers, metal grates over bridges) but overall I feel no risk.  I could compare my perceived risk of riding a bike to people feeling driving a small car is riskier than a big one. It really is an individual thing of what you are  comfortable with. There are two types of risk, calculated risk and uncalculated, and one is def smarter than the other. In fact, the latter isn’t where you really want to be most of the time.

 

That being said, I would argue (and this is soooo under appreciated) every artist that is consistently and honestly pushing and trying to put themselves out there and succeed, are significantly more comfortable with risk than the average person.  To put your heart out there, day in and day out with the odds and everything else against you, with all the blowback, to bet your life on that, that is risk.  And for us artists that do it, our tolerance for risk has to be higher from the start. 

 LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or ‘practice pack’ for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like? (Would you want them to go through the same journey as you did?)

 AP: This is easy to write, well maybe not, again what comes easy to me is not true for all.

My learning pack from my experiences is quite simple:

  1. Learn how a camera works — film not digital. 35mm, medium, and large format.
  2. Find and look at photographs and photogs that you like and want to emulate. look at the pics and take notes on what you see.  Try to recreate those pics.
  3. Shoot as much as you can what YOU have fun shooting, (usually what comes easy is what you have fun with, but not always). This is a biggie and hard: take pictures based on what you think is great, not about what you think others will think is great.  THIS IS HUGE (it is what will create your style and what people will respond to), and have fun.  If it’s not fun what is the point?
  4. And then and this is as important as knowing how to shoot (and maybe even even more sometimes), get to know EVERYBODY. It is all about building relationships.  Think of it this way, most people choose their doctor based on someone’s recommendation — that is life —why would the photo world be any different?

LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

AP: Artists by nature are insecure, we all are — it is part of what fuels the creative process.  Heck most humans are, however artists are maybe more so-coupled with the fact they lay it on the line when they present their work.  That can be extremely scary.  Or amazingly exciting.  It takes true courage.

Look, some people look at skydiving as something they would be terrified at while others love it.  With that said, yes artists are protective of their work for the most part. There are a ton of reasons for this which I can go into later if needed. 

 

How would I try to get someone to let go?  First I would say, we all need help.  NO ONE and I mean NO ONE did it by themselves.  You can’t.  No one can.

 

Then I would try to make them understand that the past does not dictate the future and that in life there will be times you are the hammer and times when you will be the nail.  You have to put yourself out there as an artist and know that you will get hurt.  To try to understand that is a chance you take and have to if you want it.

 

It is similar to joining the military, you join because it is a good way to get structure, a way out, etc, etc., however you have to know you may go to war and die or worse. If you can’t or don’t want to deal with that don’t go into the military.  You will be hurt pursuing the arts, you prob will be taken advantage of — heck I still am now and then (and laugh about it after the pain goes away), but that is just how it is.

 

Think of it this way: if you have a car you know you will prob be taken advantage of by the mechanic, are you not going to drive anymore because of it?  I know this is a silly example and not as painful as things that happen pursuing the arts, but it is true for all things. 

 

It is not if you get knocked down. You will get knocked down. When I was starting out I had a photo agent look at my portfolio, she told me straight to my face I should shoot weddings because I will never be a fashion photographer. (Talk about being crushed…).  It is how you get up and get back out there.  And if one day it’s not for you anymore that’s fine also — in the meantime try to enjoy the ride.

There are good and bad people out there-and you won’t know which is which until you learn          which is which.  It’s called experience.

LL: Yikes! I’m not going to even imagine how much that stung. Do you still remember how you reacted?

AP: Yes, you don’t forget those types of things, although sometimes you are better off if you can.  It was like finding out someone you love is not going to be with you anymore.  First its disbelief, then it’s anger, and then feeling that “I’ll prove you wrong”(which I think is part of anger), and then the hurt sets in. That is the hardest part — it is like getting punched in the face and you didn’t even see it coming.

 

The best way I can describe it is that you feel hollow.  As if there is nothing inside you and you are kind of Zombielike, just empty but still walking.  I remember going up to my then girlfriends appartment and she opened the door and saw my face, and not knowing what had happened she thought I looked like I was going to cry.  (I can only imagine what I looked like).

 

For me, luckily, I knew I had my girlfriend there to support me (which is why I headed to her appartment), so what I did was talk about it and share how much it hurt and what I was feeling.  I had learned earlier in my life, through 2 other personal non-photo situations in my life that the best and only way to make the pain lesson and move on is to talk about my feelings and the pain. You can’t keep it inside, it will always be there and it will find a way out at inopportune times or you will have to numb it away through some vice. (Hence how addiction comes about).

 

I am also competitive so after about 2 or so days after coming back to life from being a zombie, my competitiveness kicked in and I got pissed and told myself, “who the hell is she — I’ll show her!!!!”.  “She won’t beat me”.  It’s cliche, however I am not a quitter. (Again, stubbornness-and as I was saying in the previous question in this situation my stubbornness, which can be detrimental to my success, worked for me).  And then you go on with your life.

 

I don’t know if it ever goes away, you use it as motivation, although you accept it move forward.  It may take a little time, however the worst thing you can ever do is sit and lament and feel sorry for yourself and say “woe is me”.  Life doesn’t end, nor should you.  Some competitors use it for motivation when they need it, and that is another way to turn it into a positive.  Just don’t let it consume or define you.

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique? (I’m hoping you’d be able to share an example or two, relating to either a mentor, or someone who was invested in your learning. The issue you had to get past, and how they guided you and made it easier for you to learn/understand and find the best approach. You can talk about how you ended up going for specific techniques. You can go for a group or a partner you turn to when you need someone to bounce off thoughts.)

AP: As I stated above, one of the things I would recommend to aspiring photogs or anyone is don’t follow my example of trying to do it without help.  I had to learn the hard way to let go and understand that you cannot do it on your own.  And maybe this goes back to your other question about how to get over hurt and trust people.

 

I was always afraid to let anyone in because of trust issues from when I was small and my family life.  It is something I realized later to really work on including working with a professional psychiatrist about some of these things.  I still have a hard time opening up to people I feel are not 100% invested, however I am learning to get over that.

 

An example is even now, a girl I am dating who is an UX designer for a big e-commerce company took a look at my website and was like “your website stinks” in not so many words (and a lot nicer) and offered to completely remake it.  That is a hard thing to hear, because I thought it was good, even though she was 1000% right.

 

And it was hard to let go and say “okay, I trust you, you know what you are doing — I will go with what you think is best, and put my feedback in when it is needed”.  So for me, I let her deal with it and am doing my best to stay out of her way except when needed.  It is hard because everyone thinks they know what to do, but a lot of them don’t.  For example, my father is a very successful businessman building his own company, however he has no clue how to navigate my world because his rules don’t apply to mine.

 

As for people to bounce things off of, I have usually used girlfriends although that has had mixed results (some people have their own agendas).  If you are in college though, you are at an advantage because your art department/school should have people there that are there for the same reasons you are.  Use them.  It might be the safest environment you will have, to be totally free. The trick is to just find the right people.

 

One last thing, in spite of my best efforts to sabotage myself, I had soooo many people help me.  I was lucky in the fact that I have met some great people that really believed or liked me enough to try to help me succeed.  If you can let yourself be helped you are ahead of the game.

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a photographer?

AP: For me discipline, drive, ambition, and hustle has gotten me to where I am.  Discipline not in the sense of creating one lighting and only doing one thing over and over again (although maybe this would have been helpful) but discipline as in staying the course even through the hard times, when I am feeling low and doing things that I really don’t want to.

 

An example now (which is easy to decide) is I have a trip planned to Montreal this weekend.  I have never been and am visiting my friend’s new lake house.  I am sure it is beautiful.  I just got called to hold for a potential job shooting Under Armour. If it happens it may be some of the dates I am supposed to be in Montreal.  So it looks as if I am leaving Montreal early if the job happens.  That’s the discipline.

 

If you want to be a photog you compromise (which is different than sacrificing-although sometimes you have to do that as well). I always get bored doing the same thing over and over again, so I am always trying and experimenting with new approaches.  That is one of the things I love about photo, that even though you are shooting one job after the next it changes.  Doing the same thing every day would kill me.  I never want to stop learning.  The day you stop learning is the day you start dying, because at that point you are just passing time.

LL: What are your guidelines to joining artist societies? (Or would you focus more on ways to connect to the kind of people you’d be excited to work on projects that combine fashion and fitness? And maybe a collective that focuses on photography based niches like The Licensing Project?)

AP: As for joining artist societies, it is all trial and error.  Some may really help you, some may be a waste of time.  And these same ones may be both at different times in your career.  You only will know unfortunately by checking them out and learning yourself.

 

However with that said, you should ALWAYS put the most emphasis on connecting with the people who are in the fields you want to shoot in.  You can be the greatest Photog in the world, if no one knows you, you will still wait tables.  If you can join a stock agency such as The Licensing Project, I highly recommend it.  It helps you gain exposure, a little money, and to be out there.

 

In fact, thinking now, I need to be better at updating that.  I have been lazy and undisciplined in doing that. (again my issues are coming in to effect why I haven’t).

 

Basically if a group or something can give you more exposure that is a good thing whatever it is.

LL: Favourite time of the day to work?

AP: My favorite time of day to work is early afternoon right after 12 noon.  That’s when I am alert and have my most energy.  I’m not a morning person however I am trying to be more disciplined to start early because getting to bed earlier really is helpful for me, I have found.  Plus it feels good to have a lot of things done by noon.

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?

AP: I like to know as much of what I am doing, (direction) before I even step foot in the studio or meeting.  I like to have as much covered as I can because I know NOTHING will go exactly as planned, and that is part of the fun of it.  There will always be the things you can’t control so to minimize the time to improvise, know the things you can.  On the outside it prob looks like I just make it up as I go, but I do not.

I have numerous scenarios going through my head all the time to which I can fall back on.  Think of it like contingency plans.  The reason why on the outside it may seem as if I am pulling it out my ass is because of my dislike for drama and freaking out about things.  It may be madness but there is a method.

Of course every now and then there are times when you do pull it out of your ass, however that is not a good way to approach a shoot.  I am not the kind of person who does a bunch of things then waits and sees what sticks. I prepare, make a plan, execute, improvise, be efficient, then get the hell out. That said, even with that amount of effort sometimes it is for nothing, so I am ready if that happens too.

The challenge is the fun part.  I never understood those photogs that go in without a clue and have to figure it out as they go, while you change EQ set ups 8 times only to go back to the original one.  Then again, that is their process.  Definitely not mine.

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a photo?

AP: There is no rhyme or reason to the amount of time a shoot takes.  Some are hours, some are days, some are months.  And sometimes a job that once took 5 hours takes 10 the next time or 30 minutes.

 

For example I shoot for JP Morgan with some regularity.  Every now and then I shoot Jamie Dimon, the CEO. One of the most impactful CEO’s on earth because of the effect JP Morgan has on the banking world and economy.  When I shoot him I have 15 seconds.  Literally 15 seconds, I better be prepared.

 

However, that shoot is short, the prep is basic so that’s prob 20 minutes total.  The post is generally an hour or so, so that is pretty chill.  Another example, from my Instagram is the shot of the guy with the orange tank top on the turf doing lunges with the shadow cutting across half the pic.  Setting up that shoot took a long time to prep.  We planned it for months, literally.  Then it took a number of weeks to get it all together, get the location, had to change models last minute, and all day shooting for that and the other shots we were shooting  that day.  Then it took a couple weeks to collaborate with the art director editing, and a couple weeks to retouch.  All in all that shoot took almost a year to complete.

 

Every picture and shoot is different.  I’ve been called the day before and weeks in advance.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

AP: I would describe my style as fun, beautiful, and strong.  I feel I tend to focus on the subject very much, and really like colors popping however I have found recently I have focused more on monochromatic.  I am more interested however on what others interpret my style to be.  That I always find interesting.

 LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?

AP: HA!  I could go on and on about this one.  That all I want to do is bang models and party.  That I am homosexual, that I am not a real man.  That I am lazy, and don’t want to work.  That I am not intelligent.  That I am not a real artist (I have gotten this from other artists because I am a photographer instead of painter, illustrator, fine artist…etc., and even from other photogs because I shoot fashion).

 

That what I do is easy, and that I don’t do “real” work.  That I have no direction in life and that I am not serious about my life.  That I have no discipline.  (That last one was from my father.)  Many of these misconceptions cover both being a photog and an artist.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

In addition to this, I am a unique case because I am an athlete also.  I grew up playing hockey and other sports until I went to art school.  So I lived in two worlds, one being an artist and the other being an athlete as sports are still a huge part of my life still.  So I have gotten a lot of sh– from so called “artists” about this before they even knew me.  Williamsburg in Brooklyn is notorious for this.

 

I have learned as “open minded” artists like to claim they are, they can be some of the most closed minded ones out there.

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AP: As I tried to emphasis above, I ALWAYS want to learn new things and never stop.  I really do believe the moment you stop learning your existence is minimized.  Even if it is just what elephants eat, it doesn’t matter. Be amazed, see, and always ask why.

 

At the moment I am completely half-assing learning French because the girl I am dating is French-Canadian.  And being aware of what I do and how to be better at life is totally learning. If you are truly applying your experiences to making yourself a better photog, man, woman, brother, sister or whatever just in that you have enough to learn.

 

I am also at the moment trying to learn how to overcome my weaknesses and use my strengths (this is a never ending process).

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?

AP: 1. Dealing with my issues that don’t help me (insecurities-becoming confident in myself and my work), 2. realizing that accepting help is okay and no one can do it alone, 3. accepting the process and all its hardships and understanding my path is my path and that is okay (having faith that I am making progress and that it will come with patience and hard work), and 4. having fun along the way.

If you aren’t having fun find something else — this doesn’t mean you will have a blast all the time, (what I mean is if you really enjoy your life when you really stop and think about it).  Of course these are always a work in progress.

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that a photo is finished?

AP: Unfortunately everyone thinks editing is retouching probably because of Instagram.  Editing is a skill all it’s own as is retouching. However I will try to answer what I think you are looking for.  The first step is seeing that you got the shot in camera.  This you know when you see it, I can’t explain it (or prob could if I had all the pics in front of me) but you know when you got it.  Then comes editing and that usually is the art directors job.  As I said that is a skill to find the best one of what you shot. Usually there are 5 or 6 that could be winners, and you narrow it down to 1 or 2.  Then you go to post production and if you have artistic control, for me I like a natural look, so it looks as if there wasn’t any retouching.  When do you know you have done enough?  For me when there is nothing I can be critical about it with.  When there is nothing I see and say, “that needs….”.  I can be a perfectionist so when I am satisfied, I know that is when I am done.

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AP: My go-to set-up when I had no money was seamless, 1 strobe, umbrella with umbrella sock, and bounce.  When I’m on shoots, it usually is some variation of an octabank umbrella with a profoto head, maybe some fill cards/V-flats, some heads with grids, and probably heads on trees (light stands-two heads per stand) and a seamless or on a white cyclorama.  Ideally since I prefer natural light and location photography my go to is the sun with bounce, usually a flex fill.

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

AP: No, most of everything I learned and used was based out of necessity (and affordability and what I was able to get access to with no money) and what I could get that could work for me professionally.  Its not about the equipment however you do need equipment that can get the job done.

 

I have seen all sorts of stuff used that has produced great work — it is just, what will make your life easier?  And that is what professional equipment does.  Just makes your life easier.  There is always more than one way to skin a cat.  (and I like cats..haha)

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

AP: Really all I own is my camera, 2 lenses, Tripod, monopod, some maxi stands, umbrellas, seamless, on camera flash, monopod strobe, a flexfill, light meter, and then my digital stuff.  Computer, cards, card readers, harddrives, adobe photoshop, capture one, etc.  I don’t own much equipment, on shoots it’s either provided for me or I rent it and client picks up the expense.  There is usually a budget for equipment.

LL: Have any of your equipment undergone customisation?

AP: Nope, I’m not really a techie.  Again I don’t feel it is about the equipment.  You can make amazing stuff on a pin hole camera.  The latest gizmo’s and all that is super fun for a little, and as I said it can make life easier, however if I need it I rent it.  For me I’d rather spend my money on other things-such as a lens that I do need.

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

AP: My film cameras were great buys at the time especially my 503 hassellblad. (it’s an awesome piece of machinery), however now they are useless as I don’t shoot film.  I haven’t got rid of them, although they do take up space.  (I have a bad habit of not throwing things away).

 

However, as I was saying I am pretty minimal (a large part of that is because I live in NYC where there is no place to put anything) so most of the stuff I have I use, except the film cameras….

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot? (Are there specific things you’ve done over the years to make sure that you are taking care of your posture and not putting unnecessary stress on your body? Is this the reason you chose specific equipment in your set-up, like laptop stands, tables, chairs? Or is it more about making sure you exercise regularly, and you’d be able to handle anything that gets thrown at you?)

AP: This is a good question because photography is a hard job on the body.  It really is a manual labor job. Now saying that, it isn’t like digging ditches, but there is wear and tear on the body.

 

I also feel there isn’t enough awareness about this issue.  With that said, posture and being in shape has always been a priority for me since after college.  As a was saying I was an athlete, and still think I am (haha). So being in shape has always been important to me.  Also being healthy is extremely important to me.  The mind and body are the same thing and if one suffers as does the other and vice versa.  And also, posture conotates confidence and people respond to people that look strong and healthy better than people who are schlumped over or overweight.

 

One of the reasons I like shooting is because you are active, so being in shape gives me an advantage over most photgs that aren’t.  And when I was assisting being strong gave me an advantage because I could carry equipment.  Also there are a lot of photgs that now have what I call the S body-the forward head, curved midsection, and legs behind them.  The look like the letter S from the side.  ahha.  It creeps me out, so I never want to get that way-even when I am old if I am no longer shooting.

 

I don’t buy anything specific gearwise, I work out 6 days a week, and play sports.  That is the best way to take care of yourself.  One day I may buy the knee pads because my knees are shot from growing up playing hockey but hopefully that would be it.

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage? (Is there a specific part of your kit that you are extra careful in transporting and handling? If you own a Mac, there is a saying that Mac users tend to clean their computers more often…so it’ll be interesting to hear your response about that! And of course your view about wanting to spend time at the beach as frequently as possible while being able to take good care of your gear.)

AP: Again I don’t own a lot of equipment, however what I do own I am very careful with.  It is electronics so you have to be careful, same thing with storage, I am careful with it.  I also like my things to look and work new so I am careful with them.

 

With that said I am only going to do so much. Things will happen and I try to keep them out of situations in which they could get damaged, but in the end I am not going to obsess over it.  I mean obviously I will be more careful with my laptop than my light stands but that is kind of common sense.  I had my iPhone 4 for 4 years never once put a cover on it and never cracked either side so I just try to be careful. 

 

About the Mac saying, I have never heard that, interesting…. 

 

 

I don’t think it is true as I have seen people from both ends of the spectrum.  Nut jobs that treat their equipment as if it is baby Jesus and then idiots that rest their coffee full to the brim on their Macbook.  I like people that are respectful and care about keeping their stuff nice and in good shape as I try to do.

 

The beach haha — yes, the beach is not a friend to electronics especially cameras with moving glass.   Seriously though, I try to not use my EQ as much as possible-meaning whenever I work and can rent equipment especially my computer.  I do everything I can to not use my personal computer ever shooting a job.  The exception sometimes is my camera.

 

But if I am shooting on the beach then I do try to rent instead of use mine, but a lot of times I do shoot with my camera on the beach and do try to be a little more careful.  Sand does get everywhere and salt water will eat anything.  I am respectful when I rent though.  But I am respectful of anybodies property anywhere, whatever it is.  That is just part of who I am as a person.

LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when transporting your work?

AP: Hmmm, getting help or paying someone to do it that is competent is usually a much better way to go.  And if the budget isn’t there for that, give yourself enough time and don’t procrastinate.  It is usually going to be a pain in the butt. ha!

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos? (Or maybe if there is a request for a print, what size format would you usually have it made?)

AP: I do keep some prints of my photos usually if it really speaks to me I will frame it and put it on my wall.  That is usually rare though because I know me and I usually fall in love with something I have shot and then don’t think it is a big deal once I shot something new and fall in love with that new work.

 

There are a few that stick with me, however I have found I am more impressed with things I do on other mediums that are mine than I have done photowise.  Maybe it is the challenge of the other mediums I respond to or the fact I feel I accomplished more because I don’t feel as strong in that medium, I don’t know why.

 

If there is a request for a print, I usually ask them for a size that they want.  8×10 or 11×14 is usually the norm though.

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on the photos you share of your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest? (and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it would be quite difficult to do?)

AP: I have found people who use watermarks are not usually shooting the type of work I am shooting.  There are a few reasons I don’t do it.  1, Every shot I make by law is instantly copyrighted.  2, I’m not big enough yet (or maybe just haven’t run in to a situation yet) where the court costs of taking someone to court would be worth it. 3, Everything has been done, you know how hard it is to prove you did it first. 4. Unless they are going to make oodles of money on that image is it that big of an issue.  (the exception to this if it is the same players doing it repeatedly, then they should be beaten down.  Really.  Cowards.)

 

I have seen work that has resembled something I did, you also run the risk of retaliation in my field.  That isn’t saying don’t stick up for yourself. Definitely do. However, understand actions have consequences. 

 

 

What drives me insane are people that get jobs that are copying my stuff. It’s like just friggin hire me — that’s what irks me.

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your pictures came about?

AP: Sure, first it is worth saying that there are many different things that inspire me when making a photo.  But 2 big ones are location and clothing.  With that said, I’ll go on…

The Jump – I wanted something dynamic because I had this really cool location.  We had all these dirt hills and all that, and because I am an 8 year old at heart and love running and jumping on them and I knew there was a cool shot in there.  The funny thing is, is that the jump perception in most pics is usually false in this case it was actually pretty high.  I just picked a dirt hill where there was another dirt pile that he could jump into, (you can see the dirt on the bottom of his shoes) or he would have messed himself up pretty good after one landing.

Because the sun was just about over head I had to be careful on how I shot it or the light would be not the most interesting and exposure would be a nightmare as I didn’t want to use flash.  So I positioned myself so that I would have the overpass creating a natural element to show depth and create lines and negative space and all that, but also to block out the sun.  The lens flare I kept to give it a little something — a little light play that makes it a little more fun.

I also wanted to be under him a little to give a much more dynamic angle for the viewer, so as to make it look more dramatic.  I actually shot this from two different angles and distances and edited it down to two pics and let my art director choose the most impactful one.   (Here’s an example of getting help, letting go, and trusting another with my work and process-and looking back now at the two finals, she was right in deciding on this one)

Vanilla Star Jeans – haha no posing.  I actually try to get my subjects to not pose at all.  I feel it looks stiff most of the time and ‘posey’.  Plus I am not great at it (most likely because I don’t like it), some photogs are amazing at this, I am not.  I like natural and movement and energy.  I LOVE energy.  This is something I always have to work on with myself giving energy and not being afraid to put it out there.

That said, the model was fantastic and because it was a total 80’s hip hop vibe, we wanted something that gave energy and recollected the old school hip hop movements and more importantly attitude.  So it was a mix of having her move, directing her to give that attitude and feeling and her being a great model.  Trying to capture a moment.  It’s the in-between moments that are the magic.

The Kiss – This was a personal shoot I did with my cousin (who is an aspiring actress) and her then fiancé, now husband.  They were coming to NYC to propose (well she didn’t know it) and we decided to do a photoshoot.  I’m close to my cousin and don’t get to see her a lot so this was a fun excuse to hang out.  It is actually a part of a story we did based on the movie “breakfast at tiffanies”.

There is a scene where Holly goes and lightly kisses her beau in the hallway.  I decided to do it outside as around the corner from where I live are all these nice brownstones and would give it a more olden day look.  I had them stand where they were and told Matt (her husband-then fiancé) to grab her and kiss her passionately.  Which he totally nailed.

The light was going down so I was at a slow shutter speed which is why its a little soft, which does bug me, however that bike in the foreground was just chance and luck and makes the picture.  I knew the red coat would pop and it contrasted perfectly against his jacket. Now if this was a paid shoot those cars in the back wouldn’t be there but over all this was a planned shot that exceeded my expectations because of Matt and Rachel and the unknown biker.

As I was saying before you can plan as much as you want sometimes things just happen.  In this case it all came together.  The soft focus still does bug me though.  Stupid light (or dumb photographer, you decide)…haha.  This story I did is a perfect example of what I mean by you gotta have fun.

Audrey Hepburn was stupidly gorgeous and there were so many great scenes in that movie, and it was such a classic —- it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.  And we had fun.  My cousin and her fiancé were totally into it and we got amazing shots.  It was just for us and we had a blast shooting all day.  You gotta love what you do, and especially do some stuff for yourself, because it’s yours.

Eyes Closed – This was another personal project.  I started out in college doing what I call expressive portraits.  I love psychology and love to read what is in people’s heads and try to get it out in their image.  Who they are.  When you nail it a lot of times they don’t even see themselves that way.  It’s connecting on a human level that is so beautiful and human even if it is not “pretty”.  So this was a series (always in progress) of portraits that I started doing of my friends that I play football with.  We took about 40 shots (give or take-to remind me of my film days, 36 exposures) and for me I just sit and watch and let them have their personality come out.  And then try to capture it.

With Sean this was him, or at least one aspect of him.  He is an orthopedic doctor, you would never see him with his eyes closed or smiling this way at work, being relaxed and light-but this is him.  As much as I prefer eyes open, this spoke to me the most.  Sometimes it is just a feeling.  And again this was a shoot I did for fun.

LL: What are the kind of goofy things that you think defines you as a person? (Is it that you enjoy certain kind of jokes? Or more often you poke fun at yourself and rarely make others the butt of your jokes?)

AP: Haha, I am a big dork.  I’m not cool, which makes me cool.  Haha.  I make a retard out of myself and I tell dad jokes. (even before it was a thing).  I do make fun of myself a lot.  I rarely do make others the butt of jokes.  I don’t find that funny as I know firsthand how it feels to be made fun of. 

Unless of course they deserve it….heh, heh…

LL: Was how you built your client base linear? Or are there times that there is a burst of referrals…then sometimes not? (Or was it just about finding the connector?)

 AP: For me, my client base has never been linear and there is no rhyme or reason to it.  I have met people because I bumped into them out in the street. I have had a burst of referrals from one person. I have found a connector, and I have gotten jobs by just pounding the pavement.  The hard sell is not something I like or do so my clients have mostly come from other referrals or people I have known from past working relationships.

LL: So what’s the story with you and salads?

AP: Haha.  Sometimes I start craving salads.  Either Cobb salads or Caesar.  Mostly Cobb, and that is all I want to eat for the next however many days.  I usually go to a place around the corner from me, but it was freezing outside as it probably was in the dead of winter, and my apt was so warm.  I didn’t want to go outside.  I think I ended up going out.  Or eating pasta…ha

LL: Next time….off to Andriod?

AP: I was extremely frustrated with Apple because of all their proprietary crap.  I use Apple but hate it — they do jerky things to just make more money.  Unfortunately, most creatives use apple so it is easier in that regards to use their stuff.  And it looks better.  (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em-haha)

LL: With your website redesign — was it easy sailing? (Or did you end up adding a number of things you didn’t expect?)

 

AP: Haha, I thought it was relatively easy, thinking what I wanted was really cool and looked great and was easy to use.  Then I met a UX designer and she trashed everything about it.  And now I am redesigning it as we speak. Haha. (Although when this blog is published the relaunch will have already happened).

 

With the website I tweeted about, it took a long time to build, longer than I thought it would. And now I am rebuilding it from scratch again after about 3 months.  As for things I didn’t need, I didn’t have to compromise with that really because I actually had my people build it from scratch. This second one though I am using a template.

LL: In your bio — you mentioned that you only knew one person in NYC before moving. (Was it the case? or did you end up finding more people you knew prior to moving? Do you think this is the importance of making sure to keep in touch with people…particularly ones you don’t mind spending a heap of time with? And does this link with your last statement in your bio wanting to get more people to visit as you love entertaining?)

AP: No, I only knew one person.  My best friend Mike whom I had been friends with since I was 4 years old.  We are kind of like brothers along with one more friend and Mike just happened to be working and living in NYC at the time.  Lucky for me because he had a sweet place to live which I still live in (he has since left NYC).

 

This is only one of the reasons it is super important to keep in touch with people and meet everyone.  Mike worked on Wall Street, he didn’t know any fashion people or artists.  (This is before wall street people tried to get with fashion people, i.e. models).  An example is as follows: there was a college classmate of mine that my teachers loved (they didn’t care for me too much) and one professor got her an internship with Annie Leibowitz.  Are you kidding me?  I would have killed for that.  Unfortunately, my “things” kept me from getting close to my art professors in college and I did not have them as a resource when I moved to NYC.  This is why I try to get people to visit NYC. I love to show them how cool it is and I like hosting.

LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

AP: For me it is the same for anything I want to do well at.  Care, be a good person, be honest, work hard, don’t half ass, do what you say (stick to your word), do the best you can, have fun, and try to create a positive fun atmosphere.

 

Find out what makes them laugh, it loosens things up and makes everyone more comfortable.  Another is give the client the attention they deserve to their ideas.  They need to understand I respect their thoughts and ideas and in return I think I gain their trust and respect.

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

AP:  I don’t think so….However, I love helping out and answering questions.  I am a huge believer in asking questions, the most important one being, “why?”.  The only thing that does bother me are when people ask questions that they don’t really want to listen to the answer to, are looking only just to hear the answer they want to hear, want it not to be honest (“sugar coated”), or are just asking questions for the sake of asking questions-don’t really care about answers.

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting?

AP: No, and posting is something I need to up my game on.  I am not good at doing it, mostly because I hate doing it. It is strictly because I have to —- otherwise I wouldn’t have Twitter, Instagram, maybe FB however I am rarely on FB anymore. I try to do it at least once a week, and it prob should be more.  I am not good at that stuff.

 LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something on Instagram of Twitter? (what process do you go through to make sure that you are not rushing to post something that you would want to take back later? Do you consult someone to bounce off ideas before you make the final decision whether to go ahead with it or not?)

AP: I wouldn’t say I hesitate about posting things, however I do think about it and edit what I post (edit as in choosing images, not retouching-don’t confuse the two) before I post anything.  I definitely am very selective about what I am putting up based on different factors.

 

My process is to see what I have recently posted, see what I have, and decide what would be the strongest next image I could put-then post.  As for consulting someone about what I am going to post-no, I choose that myself.  The exception is Twitter, I did have a friend handle that, however, I had to stop with that because I found some things about her that made me very concerned about my trust in her.

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

AP: Chasing after unpaid invoices — I have two now that are due to me and have for a while and I need to get them because it is significant money and has been way too long.  (one of the reasons I am doing this right now) I have been putting it off because one of my problems is being pushy and demanding things even if I am in the right and it is something that is owed me.  I don’t like confrontation in my business and am trying to work on that.

 LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

 

 AP: I am not, although I would if the person was serious about it.  I have briefly in the past, however in those cases I feel the people liked the idea of it more than the actual practice of it.  I don’t have those other people although I would like to.  I am a pretty big self-motivator and am extremely self-critical however we all can use some help.  I have found I tend to be very “life coachy”.

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

AP: I am somebody that believes in making things happen and changing something if you don’t like it, instead of sitting around bitching about it (which is what most people do). So I think about what is the best and the most efficient way to change or fix the situation and then I try to do that.

Sometimes I get too caught up on it and spend too much time on it though. The things I have no control over I walk away from. I feel I have become very good at picking my battles.  I don’t have time to fuss over the things I can’t control so if I am annoyed and know I can’t do anything about it, I walk away.  If I do come into contact with it again and this time I can change the situation, yes, I definitely try to change it.  I believe in being proactive even if it isn’t in my personal best interest.

LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?

AP: There are a lot of things, photo, football, human psychology, and useless information.  I can talk about any of these things forever, not on any mailing lists (I don’t like to read things online) or anything such as that.

 

One topic I would like to talk about more is personal accountability. Not only understanding how what you say and do has a cause and effect but also how scapegoating runs rampant and that people don’t want to take accountability for themselves and their situations.

 

I will give a small example, although I really don’t want to get political.  I know you are Australian but maybe you have heard of a policy here that was causing debate, building a wall to separate the US and Mexico.  Hahaha.  Now I personally think it is absolutely asinine to do that for a myriad of reasons, however I do feel it is absolutely beyond stupid that many people that are against this are for having fences around their houses.  What is the difference?  Really?  A fence around your house is keeping others out and you in which is no different from a wall around a country keeping others out and you in.

 

People don’t want to hear that though, they don’t want to be personally accountable for the fact that their feelings about fences around their house (“my yard is private and I want my privacy”), leads to feeling about walls. Don’t scapegoat that it’s “them” when it is you.  Hypocrisy drives me insane and I use self-awareness and brutal honesty with myself (as much as it is possible to) to improve as well as feedback from others I trust have my best interest at heart.

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

AP: HHHmm, There are some, I can’t remember them off the top of my head. (I prob will once I hit send)  My buddy Scott McKay @scottmckay17 does some fantastic work and is completely under the radar.  Also two more photogs that their stuff is great that I am buddies with as well are Jonathan Meter @jonnymeats and Stephan Reel @stephan.reel, neither is what I shoot-just photgs that I like looking at.

 

I haven’t had a “whoa, I gotta try that” moment in a while.  There are things I am still thinking I want to try.

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

 

AP: I have never pre-ordered anything.  I think.  I have ordered things that were out of stock and waited until they were back in, however that is not the same.  Personally I have never wanted an object that I had to buy so badly that I needed to pre order it.  I don’t think there would be either unless it was cheaper by pre-ordering or something such as that.

 

Even the next book in The Song of Fire and Ice series. But I am getting more convinced every day George RR Martin will never finish it…haha.  Yes, I have bought a box set before, it was an anime cartoon from my childhood, the Robotech series of the Macross saga, the Robotech Masters, and the New Generation.  There most likely been box set books as well.

 LL: Are you a big listener of music? (Does your music library reflect the music you write? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Or maybe if you were to pick a track/album for someone to listen to while viewing your work? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

AP: I am a very big listener to music and am right now in fact.  I stopped trying (stress ‘trying’ — haha) to write music way back in high school when I used to play guitar.  So there are many artists I love and I am sure many people have heard of them, Bowie, Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G., Musicals…

 

Songs or albums that I repeatedly like usually greatest hits of the artists I like, some compilations.  I have a serious variety in music taste.  I will listen to about anything except Reggae, Country, and then there is the stuff I can only listen to for a little such as Techno and House.  One definite album I listen to a ton is ‘All Day’ by Girl Talk.  Usually my pump up studio or gym album.

 

Some things I like reading are fantasy such as the aforementioned, A Song of Fire and Ice series and Lord of the Rings. 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

 

AP: Right now I am reading the book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicolas Talib, sorry I don’t have the link. (and it is not the movie) I recommend it to anyone that thinks about how to actually see reality as it is, not just what we want to see.  It is tough reading but worth it.  Next will be “Liars Poker” by Micheal Lewis, then “The Simillarian” and “Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien, and then “Fooled by Randomness” again by Talib.

 

That should sustain me for a good while.  And then in 2058 when “Winds of Winter” finally comes out, by whoever ends up finishing it, I’ll read that…haha

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

 

AP: Hmm, inspiration I look for just by going out and looking.  In seeing.  Keeping my mind, eyes, and ears open and taking in as much as I can.  That is usually how I become inspired, by seeing, or hearing, or thinking about something that clicks with me.  It can even be a belief or a desire.  What gets me motivated?  A bunch of things, financial status, competition, insecurity, anger, love, (that’s the best one), confidence.  I think this is a partial list.

 

If I am not inspired or motivated, that is usually when I am feeling low, or hurting.  When I am feeling that way I try to do something creative I don’t usually do.  Play guitar, draw, paint, make some sort of clothing thing, etc. I also talk about it with someone that will listen.  I try to also really hear people when they say things to compliment me.  And try to feel as if I am productive.

LL: What makes you smile?

 

AP: Lots of things make me smile.  People laughing and really enjoying each other, playing-whatever it is.  Right now off the top of my head it is Boaty McBoatface. haha.  It is a great story.  I absolutely love when people who pride themselves (the science minister of Britain) on being “the experts” or “know it alls” show how little intelligence and lack of foresight they have and have to eat crow.  Basically, when they think too much of themselves and think they are better than everyone else and people prove they are asses.  Here is another great article about Boaty McBoatface.  haha (although what happens at the end does annoy me a lot.)

LL: What’s your view about social media? (Were you reluctant to get into it the first place, or were you happy to experiment and play around with specific social media sites)

 AP: I don’t like social media.  To me it’s a waste of time.  Unfortunately, it is a fact of life — so I accept it because I can’t be a dinosaur.  I try to use it to benefit me.

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment? (Are there ones that you find particularly informative, addictive or inspiring?)

AP: I have 1 because I don’t look for things online unless I have a specific reason to.  So I guess even though it may not be my favorite my most often frequented is google.com.  That most favorite one is www.palombophotography.com (shameless plug-haha)

 LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

AP: I rarely post, and if I do it is only FB, Insta, and to a lesser extent Twitter.  Every now and then I will put in two cents on a FB post, but FB is when I am procrastinating and I hate procrastinating.

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

AP: Nope.

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AP: If I can go outside to the park or somewhere in nature that is peaceful and beautiful that can do it.  Or go for a run, or a good workout.  Laughter is the best, unfortunately sometimes it is hard to find funny people to laugh with.

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists? (via YouTube or specific collaboration websites)

AP: I don’t know any specific collaboration websites, and I really don’t like youtube, however I love collaborating with other artists.  I believe in cooperation over competition any day.  And I am competitive.

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which one would be your favourite?

AP: This changes most every time I shoot something new.  Although now that I think about it, may be, and probably is, candids of good times with either my friends or my family, or both.

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

 

AP: I am someone that definitely has a hard time starting things — alot of time I have to really force myself to do something.  However, when I do start I usually become extremely focused and don’t want to stop until it is done.

 

This questionnaire is a great example. The first set of questions sat in my inbox for a week or so and then I said to myself, “just do it”,  (I hate the feeling of knowing I need to do something and not doing it) and I didn’t stop answering the questions until it was done. (not including stopping for eating, sleeping, etc).

LL: For someone coming across one of your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

 

AP: In all honestly, to hire me, and want me to shoot for them for a lot of money.

However, with that said, I would like them to take away that I can make a beautiful image and have talent and that it makes their day a little better in some way, even if they get to escape something for a little while enjoying the photo.  I would want to inspire them —- it doesn’t matter to what but to open their minds a little to plant a seed of something that could be possible for them.  Yea, an inspiration.

LL: What makes your soul sing?

 

AP: Knee deep in the Caribbean ocean shooting pictures of beautiful people with an amazing crew on somebody else’s dime.  Sailing a Hobie cat or single hull in Grace Bay in Turks and Cacaos.  Or being around my friends and/or good people and laughing my ass off.  Any or all of those three would do it.

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

 

AP: For me the best way to connect to me is e-mail if you don’t know me.  If you know me a phone call or meeting up.  I don’t like to send or respond too much on social media as I don’t have any of the messenger thingys set on my phone.

 

Anyone interested in supporting me, I would like them to know, “Thank you!” and that I greatly appreciate it and mostly spread the word about my work, pass on my details, and if there is something that I can do to help you, I will try.  Instagram is probably the social media platform that I visit and respond to the most and I think other people in the creative fields use it more than other platforms as well..

 

I don’t think I have a “biggest fan”, I do have people interested in my work, however I wouldn’t know who is the “biggest”.  There have been people that have given me great compliments, most of that is through Instagram I believe.  Most of the people I have found that resonate creatively with what I do has been through Insta, mostly because I have seen their work.

 

However there have been times also that people have found me whom work was spectacular. It is usually random for me anyway.  If there is a way to search it out, I would like to know, although I think it is just a matter of taking the time to go through everything.

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

 

AP: I don’t believe I have, and I don’t think I ever will.  I do have a very small core (3 people-2 best friends and my brother) who I consider all my brothers and I know will always be there and I trust them with everything I have and will ever have.  They are special and will be with me until they leave earth or I do.

 

To answer your question about a “tribe”, for me I have to say I have found those people a few times and will find them again.  As a person I have never felt as if I belong in one group nor could ever be defined by one thing.  This is good in the regards of always seeing new perspectives, people, and things, however it also makes me feel as if I have never belonged and always been an outsider. 

Truthfully also, I am too curious to stay with one thing-I want to see what is so scary, or what is behind the curtain.  It is great when you find that “tribe”-sometimes it lasts months, years, or a photoshoot.  I accept that life is always changing, people come and go, as do relationships.  I was in a fraternity in college, for 4 years that was my “tribe” and it was awesome.  Once I graduated, it went away.  Doesn’t mean I don’t hold those people dear to me — just life goes on.

 

I worked on a shoot for Ralph Lauren years ago. For a week I found my tribe and then the shoot was then over. I don’t see them barely at all anymore however I am very friendly with them if I see them and would hang out.  And yes I have had and continue to have multiple “tribes”.  Currently I do not because I am in a rebuilding phase and that happens sometimes as well.  Most of my tribes never overlap, however that is more of who I am and my varied interests so I attract all different people. 

 

Also, being that I never feel as if I belong I am never comfortable in one group and knowing life changes, I rarely fully invested in one group.  I do feel you can be more productive if you can find your “tribe”, just be careful to not become to tunnel visioned.  For those that are like me, and never feel as if you belong, accept it, and be good with it and enjoy the groups and relationships you make along the way as you do your thing.  Know some will stay with you and some won’t and that is ok.  Read “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein, it about sums it up.

 

However if you are not like me, start with the things you love, and/or where you want to be or do and put yourself out there.  You will attract people like that.  Contrary to what people think you only attract people like yourself.  Athletes hang out with athletes, artists to artists, criminals to criminals, etc.

 

Put yourself out there where you want to be and the friendships and partners and associates you become close with will build your “tribe”.  You have to be proactive though.  You can even do it with people who you are not crazy about, however that won’t come as naturally.  I really hate buzz words though…..

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Malibu yesterday #palombophotography

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 LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

AP: The opportunities I am looking for are ad shooting jobs with pro athletes, and jobs that send me away to shoot in the Caribbean. (while knee deep in the ocean…..).  Nike, would be a very cool client to shoot for.  There are a ton. Ralph Lauren.  Or as I said anything with pro athletes.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

 

AP: In anyway I can.  It could be career, physical, mental, how to solve a problem, guidance, motivation, inspiration…there are a ton.  As long as they are willing to do the work and it doesn’t hurt me and I don’t want it more than them, I’ll do whatever I am able to do to help anyone if they are a good person.

 

I am busy so I might not be able to give much or not have certain resources to give them anything, unfortunately I can’t do anything about that.  Just don’t waste my time, or I will drop you like a bad habit.  However, that being said my favorite is psychoanalytic and physical help.  Being a part of someone getting in the physical shape they wanted to or overcoming something that has been hindering them is absolutely awesome!

 

I believe the mind and body are manifestations of the same thing which is why either one is my favorite.  One of the greatest things to witness is being a part of someone overcoming a phobia.  Really amazing, powerful stuff.  It’s awesome!

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

AP: It’s funny, if I were to quickly think about it I would say, “no, I haven’t done anything that amazing as I am not where I want to be yet”.  However, that is a subjective, self-critical perspective that is not the truth because it is based on my warped sense of success.

 

If I were to really take a step back and objectively look at my path (my journey) and to really see it objectively and where I was, how I did it, and what I dealt with, and the risks and gambles I took and the stupid decisions I made along the way, along with the smart ones, if I really looked at it truthfully and honestly — f— yea, I’m beating the odds so many times.

 

It is rather amazing. I mean not even including all the crap before NYC, I have been here 13 years, knew literally one person when I moved here with a duffel bag and a few boxes of film and contact sheets, and am a professional photog, living a fun life (and yes, I am not doing a lot of things I want yet), and did it without sacrificing my morality and values.

 

Yea, you better believe that alone is pretty amazing.  Now throw in everything else before NYC, it is amazing.  It’s been a fun ride-and I hope it just keeps getting better.  Thank you for asking this question. It made me stop and think about it. (Sometimes you get stuck in it and don’t see the forest for the trees.)

LL: How can we support your work?

AP:  The greatest way anyone could support my work is basically to keep me shooting.  That entails passing on my information, hiring me for jobs, developing relationships, being good people, and even though I already stated it hiring me on great jobs and if you are excited and happy with the results (which I believe you would be) hire me again and tell your people.  (Or a jackpot winning lottery ticket…hahaha)

 

I’m a huge believer of give a man a fish he eats for one day, teach a man to fish he eats everyday.  I love  shooting, not hand-outs.

And in the meantime spread the word!  Instagram: @palombophotography  Twitter: @palombophoto  Web: http://www.palombophotography.com

* Alex Palombo is a photographer based in New York. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. If you come across news that “Winds of Winter” has finally come out, he’ll welcome the news via email (Of course you can ring him and he’ll have an unforgettable story to tell: a stranger rang him to update him about the “Winds of Winter” and it was one of the best days).

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August – September 2017) between Alex and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a Sydney musician helping brands get their mojo back. When she is not doing that, she can be found spending time through various rabbit holes (offline and online) sniffing out stories for a music discovery project.

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Q&A #17: Michal Wilczek

West Coast Tour 2014

 

“Mikee shares his journey as a photographer, his love for Batman, the importance of being humble, and a quote from LOTR”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Mikee, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A!

Michal Wilczek: Hi Leigh! Thank You for taking Your time on preparing these questions. I was really touched by Your in-depth research and re-discovered some pictures that I haven’t seen in a while – what a journey it has been for me :)! I just came back to my home in Krakow, I spent some time abroad and on out-of-town projects. Here we go.

 

LL: Looking at your photo stream, I noticed a bunch of Batman related photos! Are you quite the fan?

MW: I’ve been a Batman Fan since I was 3. To this day I remember my uncle bringing over a Russian VHS version of the Tim Burton classic. The opening sequence haunted me for years to come. Batman opened my eyes to the “terrifying” world of darkness and comics. From then on it was a great experience – 2 years later I got to see Batman Returns and got hooked on Batman – The Animated Series.

The rest of my Bat curiosity was set in motion and every year I found some new Batman related stories that I still love to this day. I actually shared all of the cowls on my Flickr – I have the highest respect for all of the Batman films that came out – each is special for its time period, the people behind the camera, the producers and the actors. I think every actor that had to put the “cowl” on did a phenomenal job – Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman the Animated Series) and Christian Bale – love their work and dedication.

I have high hopes for Ben Affleck’s take on Bruce Wayne, I’ve been a great fan of his classic work in “Good Will Hunting” and even more respect for his return in “The Town” and “Argo”.

 

Easter / 2014

 

 

LL: Do you think part of you sometimes switches to the point of view of ‘Batman – The Animated Series’? I know it’s likely a coincidence! I just couldn’t help thinking about the cinematic (and dark) vibe of the series when looking at these two photos: the cheeky ‘Which way to the food court?’ and one from the West Coast tour.

 

MW: There is a part of me that does not want to leave the wonderful and inspiring moments of my childhood behind. Some call it a “condition” :), but I a strong believer in the power of nostalgia on who we are today.

Whether it is the wonderful colours that where amongst Leonardo, Donatello and the rest of the gang from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the rapid action and detailed “Centurions” (Power EXTREME !! 🙂 ) or the dark corners of the dangerous and mysterious Gotham City from Batman the Animated series… I’d say.. “yeah” :), the cinematic vibe is totally in my head when I am thinking of the mood I want to achieve in each published frame.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

MW: I didn’t have the resources to go with even an entry-level SLR when I started taking my first pictures. Luckily enough I was able to “borrow” my dad’s Canon AF-1 with a 28mm f/2 lens when I was still in elementary school. From time to time I would take my gear to school to joke around with my friends. In high school I decided to keep a low-profile and focus more on scanning and post-processing the pictures.

One of my greatest personal achievements of that time was having my older brother carry some of my printed work on his notepad to school :).

My break through came in 2003, when I got into Clear Lake High School’s Photography classes and was guided on SLR work with Mr. Caldarera. The creative freedom and fundamentals I learned during that year were the core of what my work is today.

I looked up photo work on the web, magazines, store posters, banners and tried to replicate the process in my head, guessing what lens, exposure, iso, post-processing method was being used and after a while “my-mental-hard-drive” needed some cleaning, which I usually did by giving an extra-personal-touch to my work.

The biggest milestone occurred, when I got my first prime lens.

 

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

MW: I guess time is the biggest factor. That and being humble. Learning about Your mistakes, taking criticism and learning from it too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially amongst people who share the same hobby as You do. As You get older, Your skills and perspective will change, You’ll look back at Your work saying “My God… what was I thinking??” but that’s part of the learning process.

 

As for monetisation – I made myself a promise when I bought my first DSLR: ‘that I would never, ever let my creative work make me think that it’s okay to look down on others. It would be great to be part of the photography business and make a living based on telling stories with photos, so let’s try to get there some day. So far, things have been great – but if one day the phone stops ringing and the offers stop coming in – I will still be happy that I spent a significant time of my life on taking photos for others :).

 

 

LL: For those wanting to learn how to get this effect in photos, where should they start?

MW: I guess it’s all about finding what makes You happy. Some people like fashion photography, some like documentaries and some like taking stills of landscapes. I tried taking pictures in almost every category there is out there and after 8 years I can say that my top 3 are – animals, portraits and documentary.

Once You find Your niche, You can explore the possibilities of framing, effects, colouring and so on. I tend to mix-up styles and most times it looks really bad, but again – that’s part of the learning process and it’s always better to try than sit on your ass and not do anything :).

 

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

MW: My favourite time is usually…when I have the time. Everybody loves the possibilities the golden hour gives, but sometimes – You just can’t take pictures during that time of the day.

I started loving outdoor photography, when I learned to use my flash+softbox as an extra light outside. That way, even in the most harsh sun, I would use the sun as a counter light and the electronic flash + soft box as the fill light. This technique allowed me take all of my Malawi portraits in less the 4 hours time. We were basically chasing the sun to make sure there is enough lighting in the background.

Eventually we also took some night pictures to imitate a studio shoot for one of the local musicians and to this day, I consider those pictures one of my greatest achievements.

 

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

MW: I love being spontaneous, but only during my personal time :).

I love my job and the opportunity that life has given me with this kind of work. Therefore, I am very serious on getting ready for the task that is given to me. I brief the customer, ask about the tastes in image framing, colouring, set up a pre-meeting to get to know my project on a personal level and try to create a story based on the given task.

The day before the shoot I clean my lenses, buy extra batteries, check the wireless transmitters, clear the memory cards, prepare the soft-boxes and tripods. Preparation, with the time needed for charging, is about 30 minutes.

 

 

 

LL: Do you use wireless for all remote triggering (like flash) and as well as for transferring image data?

MW: I have two flashes fit with wireless receivers that had taken quite-the-beating these last two years, but whenever I am in the situation that I can control the lighting to achieve a desired effect, I definitely go a flash combo. Some people will get fussy about using flash, as a way of limiting natural light coming into a frame, but I beg to differ.

I set the flash to “compensate” the lack of light within an environment and point it at an angle, never directly – even when I “hot-shoe” the flash, I have to bounce it off a ceiling or wall (or a piece of cardboard 😀 ) but never directly on the model – I just don’t like that effect.

 

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

MW: I was never big with words (that’s a skill my brother has), therefore I can’t find the word to describe my work. I spend less time describing and “just get out there” to do my work. The less time I spent on thinking what my work represents, the more time I have to learn some new tricks and explore for some new inspirations.

 

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

MW: Recently, I was invited to take some shots of airplanes flying into Krakow Balice Airport by my friend Tomek. The night before I saw, by chance, the intro to Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys”, which features a commercial plane flying over the Miami sign – not bad for an overnight inspiration. My work should be available sometime in the next two weeks.

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

MW: Minimal setup: Canon 6D | 24-70mm 2.8L | 64GB SD | 35cm light bouncer | Monopod

I used this setup during my one-day report in Paris, where I was limited to only 8kg of luggage including clothing and gear.

Optimum setup: all of the above | 50mm 1.2L | 70-20mm f/4 IS | 430 EXII | Pixel King Wireless Flash | Softbox+Tripod combo

I used this set for my work in China and Macau. It proved perfect for its weight and reliability.

Perfect setup : Minimal+optimum | Canon 5D Mark II | 14mm 2.8L II I 2x430EX II | 2 x Pixel King Wireless Flash | 2 x Softbox+Tripod combo

This is my setup for domestic photo projects. With this setup I am ready for most challenges given to me by clients, lighting and time.

 

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

MW: Trial and error, all the time. I’d look up some work on Flickr, reddit and then try to recreate an idea. Sometimes I would set up these “cheat sheets” with various pictures linking the idea I wanted to capture and most of the times the final composition was a mixture of a couple of concepts.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

MW: I did a little “tuning”. I updated the firmware and picture profiles to give me a better idea of what the final result might be. Due to massive usage and a couple of times in the rain, I decided to put some “duct tape” on my trusted 5D, which now serves as my secondary camera.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

MW: The only time I sold my gear, was when I was switching to Canon from Nikon. At that time I wanted my trusted lenses to go to someone, who would not only take care of them, but also use them to document stories and family life, and they still do to this day :).

My first film lenses were actually my fathers old PL-mount lenses, which I still use to this day.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

MW: I try to carry my backpack on three straps at a time, using a chest mount, a stomach mount and the standard shoulder straps. That way, the excess weight is evenly distributed on my spine and I have less stress on my back. For those extra heavy work days or usually on the third consecutive day I put on my basketball shoes, which tend to be better for my knees.

 

LL: What shoes do you usually wear?

MW: Mother nature blessed me (and cursed and the same time) with a pair of large and wide feet (shoe size 45 – 45.5) – therefore it was always easy for me to swim a bit faster :), but at the same time it was difficult finding shoes that would resist the amount of “inside” pressure from all the movement I was giving them.

Luckily I started skateboarding at an early age and I have been wearing skateboarding shoes for almost 16 years.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

MW: Sensor cleaning every 2-3 months, lens cleaning before every shoot.

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

MW: I print my favourites, share them with my family and friends. Whenever an exhibition is finished, I tend to distribute the “left overs” 🙂 amongst those that care about my work and would like to have it in their home.

 

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of how some of your photos came about?

MW: Jasio Wolfy – This is a photo of my brother’s son, one of my favourite shots – I guess it was his first smile for my camera. That kid is going to flood my photo stream soon.

Cookie, summertime 2014 – This is an “Action” shot of our dog Cookie, [she] makes the most awkward poses when she wants to play [with] all the other dogs.

Myslecinek // Walking in the rain –  My significant other on a walk with my dear Mom. I was fortunate enough to get the right focus on them while running towards a puddle.

 

 I’m 10 today – My dear Uncle Jasiu’s 10 year old cat that likes to sit in the dark. I caught it looking at some pigeons flying over my uncles house.


Odd one – While visiting the local cemetery in Yang Zhou, my dear friend Mei showed us the only “Christian” grave there.

 

Mr. Tim Roth [in Krakow] – I had the unique opportunity of meeting the great Tim Roth while he was visiting Krakow in 2011. I even had a brief chat with Mr. Roth on his work with director Quentin Tarantino, which made the meeting even more memorable. Great guy.

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a favourite self-portrait?

MW: I tend to point the lens at others. Sometimes I manage to squeeze in via a reflection, but that rarely happens.

As for my Gramps, well – he’s my “dziadzia” and I’ve been looking up to him for almost 30 years now. We share some great moments together and ever since I convinced him to “be himself” and not worry about me taking my camera everywhere with me, he’s never been happier. I usually have a “same-day” delivery arrangement with them, whereas my Grandma downloads the pictures on her laptop and shares them with the rest of the family.

 

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting photos?

MW: As You can tell, I haven’t posted to Flickr for a while, but that will change. I used to have a rule of posting at least one photo-per-day, and I have about 80 photos waiting to be uploaded. I’ll prepare the proper description and then flood my photostream :).

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

MW: I recently discovered a new method of retouching skin tones, without destroying the skin structure – one of the biggest improvement to my work. I also am learning the power of using color-foil filters on flash and will be posting more pictures featuring both of these methods to my photostream.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

MW: Nostalgia, old-but-good movies, puppies/kittens and backgrounds that remind me of a cinematic universe somewhere out there :).

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

MW: I was never too big on the “you-probably-never-heard-of-them” movement. I usually grabbed my musical inspirations [from] my fathers records, then my older brother. In the times of Napster, Myspace and Youtube it became relatively easy to get the music one wanted to hear at a given moment. If you look at some of the playlist I have made for myself on Youtube, it’s hard to define one genre or artist that motivates me on a daily basis :).

 

Author’s Note: Mikee has provided a link to playlists — you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.

 

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

MW: I spent a lot of time on Reddit and treat it as one of the most reliable sources for inspiration, learning and entertainment .

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

MW: I usually scan through random photos on Flickr, watch a late night movie or scan through some old comic books.

 

Cookie // First snow in 2015

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

MW: My family, dog and significant other :).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

MW: A good joke, my dog doing some random shenanigans, a phone call from an old friend, sunrise when I’m driving for [an] early project, the smell of spices my grandmother uses for cooking, an e-mail from my mom or the smile of my other half.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

MW: One of my good friends, who is one of the top social media experts in Poland, brought me into this strange world of clicking, likes and sharing – and sharing my work has never been better. The idea of spreading your thoughts and work, to those that care the most with a click of button is still stunning to me :).

 

 

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MW: Reddit, Cracked (though I miss the “old cracked.com”) and a few others.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any forums?

MW: I have a few Flickr and Reddit forums I post to, photography related. Usually it’s about technique, the right gear or just plain “great job!” comments and upvotes to support the person on the other side of the screen :).

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

MW: Not really, its the content – though I am a big fan of visibility / ad-free – and Reddit delivers :).

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

MW: Play a map of Heroes of Might and Magic 3, go with my dog for a walk, take a ride in my car, call my brother – some options are always available.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

MW: One Greek philosopher once said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak – I try to be listener amongst collaborations and give my insight, when asked for it. There are areas, where my creative ego wants to take over, but I try to keep it in the closet for those “we-have-24-hours-to-publish-this” moments.

 

1.2, further testing.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

MW: I wouldn’t call myself of tech geek, but to keep this area short – I work on a Mac, edit videos in FCPX, photos in Lightroom and Photoshop CC, shoot on Canon cameras and lenses.

LL: If you were asked to pick from your photos, which one would be your favourite?

MW: Either my father or Ben on the tracks.

 

 

LL: For someone seeing one of your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MW: I guess the overall message its that, so far, for me life is set of random stories from various places around the world- and that the one thing linking all of these stories, is the person behind the camera. The older I get, the more I notice how many things I forgot and how much more I remember thanks to those extra clicks on the camera.

Go out there, shoot, edit, publish – You’ll thank Yourself in 10 years time :).

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

MW: I’ve never thought I would directly use a quote, but this best illustrates my everyday motivation:

 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

 

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

 

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

 

Editor’s Note: You can find that scene in the film version of the Two Towers.

 

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

MW: Definitely sending and replying to individual messages via my Facebook Fan Page. After a video project last Year I responded to over 300 emails, each individually and thanked all the people that wrote me with this.

 

 

 

* Michal Wilczek is a photographer based at Kraków. You can find out more about him (and see more of his photos!) via Flickr or Facebook.

 

So, here's me. // Macau '12

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September 2014 – January 2015) between Michal and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Michal that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Michal the option of answering).
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Michal’s Q&A.
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Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

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Q&A #16: Emily Page

 

* Emily gives us a glimpse of her journey as a painter, how she is able to make some of her brushes last a long time (20 years!), and how swapping gratitudes with select people helps.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Emily! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. I’ve noticed in one of your posts, you mention that you had to recreate 22 paintings in 48 hours. How did you manage that!?

Emily Page: For my sip and paint studio, Artistic Abandon, we do consulting to help other sip and paint studios open without them having to do a franchise. Part of the consulting package is that we allow them to use 50 of our copyrighted paintings, and we provide those 50 physical paintings for them to hang on the wall.

Normally, I have several weeks to come up with all 50, but we had a studio opening in Maryland within a couple weeks and my husband was going to be driving through that area in a couple days anyway, so we decided he should just deliver them on his way and save them the cost of shipping. Luckily, we had several of the images already painted (every time I teach a class, I’m recreating the painting for the students to follow along with), but there were 22 paintings that I had to get done within a couple days. It was madness.

The paintings that we teach at the studio are designed to be taught between a 2 and 3 hour period, so they take me 30 minutes to an hour and a half to recreate if I’m not waiting for students to catch up. So if we average an hour per painting, that means it took me approximately 22 hours total. I pretty much formed an assembly line of paintings with similar colors and would work on one painting while another dried, then go back once it was dry to do the next step.

My hand just about fell off at the end of it. I wear a wrist brace when I paint because I’ve got tendonitis and it definitely earned its keep over those couple days!

 

LL: If you were to explain the ‘Sip and Paint’ concept to someone who hasn’t encountered before, what would you say?

EP: Basically, customers can bring their own wine, beer, or nonalcoholic beverage and any snacks they’d like to class, and we’ll walk them step-by-step through creating their own version of one of our paintings.

Everyone in the class does the same painting, and we break it down so that, even if you’ve never painted before, you can walk away with something your proud of. You can follow along exactly, or put your own personal touches on it (we’ll help you do that, too, if you ask). It’s a social event with people laughing and chatting while they paint, but if you want to take it more seriously, you can.

We have customers that have been in over 50 times, which I never thought would happen. We work really hard to come up with paintings that are both good, and teachable, and to make sure that everyone is having a good time, too.

LL: What approach do you take when having to ship your paintings?

EP: I’ve gone back and forth between FedEx and UPS. I’ve never used any of the big art shippers because they’re so crazy expensive. I suppose if my work started getting super expensive, I would switch over. My strategy is just bubble wrap bubble wrap bubble wrap. Way more than you think is actually necessary. And I add an extra layer of cardboard in there, too.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with painting?

EP: I started drawing when I was little and my parents always encouraged me to explore (mostly because it kept me occupied and quiet, I think, during the many hours we spent touring the country and chasing trains in a VW camper – yes, my parents were dirty dirty hippies). In high school, I did an independent study with a family friend, Tim O’Kane, and he introduced me to several different media, including oils. Check out his work at http://www.timokane.com. He’s amazing and continues to mentor me unofficially.

I fell in love with oils and ended up being an art major in college, focusing on painting. There’s such a satisfying gush. I’m big on textures. I tend to get hooked on a style and do a ton of work in that style, and then I get restless and want to try something new. I mostly figure out how to do new stuff myself, but occasionally I’ll consult books or go online if it’s a new medium. Tim recently gave me some panel to experiment on and I’m totally obsessed with that now. It’s allowing me to get very detailed and precise, so I’m doing a series of realist paintings at the moment, sprinkled in with some other work.

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

EP: The hardest thing about learning is accepting that you’re going to end up with something that you’re not happy with. You want it to be perfect the first time. But I’m learning to let go and know that I’ll probably have to sand down and gesso over a few pieces and reuse the canvas when I’m at the beginning of a new style or medium.

Making something that ends up being something you consider sub-par is okay – no one needs to see it and you’re going to learn on each piece what works and what doesn’t work, and the next one will get better. That was particularly true when I started doing portraits. Let me tell you, I have butchered some of my loved ones’ faces! Luckily, they’ll never know. I also know that sometimes a piece needs to sit for a few months and then be revisited when you’ve learned more.

I’ve even shown works that I wasn’t thrilled with and a year later gone back and totally reworked it. If a piece isn’t working, you can’t be afraid to go way off course and screw up the pretty parts to get to somewhere new and fresh. Some of my best pieces are works I hated the first time around and that are kind of accidental.

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

EP: I don’t really consult books on a regular basis, but in my studio, I do have The Artist’s Handbooks (1 by Ralph Mayer and 1 by Ray Smith), and the Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Park. They’re sort of for just in case.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never painted before, so they could have the capacity to draw at your level and skill. What would it look like?

EP: I don’t think there needs to be a set path for learning to paint. The key is to not be afraid to make mistakes and be willing to practice daily. You WILL make mistakes, and that’s okay. Just learn from them. I believe in having a strong foundation in drawing, because it teaches you how to really see what’s there, not just what you THINK is there. If you can’t draw, you can’t paint.

But really, learning to create art is just like anything else: the more you practice, the better you get. When I give private lessons, I assign homework that both lets you explore and requires you to practice. If you have a good artist to guide you, that’s really helpful, because they can help you see in ways you didn’t already. I would also say that any chance you get to watch a really great artist work, do it. I’ve learned so much by just observing.

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an artist?

EP: I was not disciplined when I was younger and it has taken me a long time to get to where I am. I’m not sure how much being more dedicated would have helped me get here faster, or if my brain just needed time to develop and mature and work things out. Even now, I don’t think of it as discipline – I look for ways to keep myself interested, which is why I have such a wide variety of art and styles.

Don’t force yourself to do more than 10 minutes a day as you’re beginning. If you’re enjoying it, do more. If you’re not, stop. Art should be a release. It should be fun, and if it’s not fun, you’ll lose interest quickly. I tend to work in spurts, where I have dozens of paintings in the works and I wish I had more time to paint, and I have phases where things slow down.

The lulls used to panic me, but now I know that’s just my pattern and that soon enough, inspiration will hit again.

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

EP: I can’t think of specific examples of times a teacher has helped me work through a real problem or learn a new technique, but as I said, people often give little tips that help you along the way – like Tim O’Kane giving me a couple pieces of prepped Masonite for my realist work.

 

LL: Do you plan when you paint?

EP: I do plan when I paint sometimes. I’ll work out composition on paper first, but I rarely make any studies in paint first. It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m using any photos as reference, I’ll print them out in black and white before I start painting so I can see values without hue.

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished?

EP: I don’t really have any kind of checklist. It’s more intuitive for me. I think if you have a solid enough foundation, you can let go of the technique and interpret your way through. If I’m struggling with a piece, or if I’m not quite sure if I’m done, I’ll ask my husband. He has no artistic training, and I like getting the layman’s opinion, because they don’t care about technique.

And generally buyers are not artists themselves. He’ll just look at a piece and say something like, “I think it needs more red over there.” He’s often right, and even if he’s not, he sometimes makes me think of something that I hadn’t considered before.

I do like having photos as reference – whether it’s of a color palette I like, or a pose I’m using, or even another artist’s work that I like the mood of, I find photos helpful.

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First layers. Such anticipation.

A post shared by Emily Page (@emilypageart) on

 

LL: Description of your style?

EP: This is a really tough one for me, because, artistically, I call myself a restless spirit. I tend to like bold color, but, of course, there are exceptions to that in my work. I swing wildly between styles – some of my work is fairly abstract and expressive, other work is tight and realistic. I tend to be drawn to figurative work in general.

I often have a theme of subject matter that I’ll focus on for a while, then back off and switch to a new subject, then go back as more ideas arise.

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as an artist?

EP: People assume that I’m naturally talented and that it comes easily to me. They assume they could never do it because the stuff they’ve produced so far hasn’t been “successful.” Wrong. Yes, I do have some natural ability, but I’m good because I’ve worked hard at it.

Paint seriously for 20 years, and it’ll get easier for you, too. And I firmly believe that everyone can produce something of value with the right guidance. That’s the thing that I love about the sip and paint studio: it allows people to try painting again even though their 2nd grade art teacher told them they couldn’t do it (that drives me crazy by the way – never EVER tell a child they’re not gifted at art. If they’re struggling, it’s your job to find their unique ability). We let them sip wine while they paint, so they relax a little, and then we walk them step-by-step through creating a painting.

With the right instruction and having each paint stroke really broken down for them, they can walk away with something they’re proud of and that they never thought they could do. Again, it’s like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to paint?

EP: I like painting at night, but that’s not generally an option these days. Because I have to teach classes at night and I’m usually worn out afterward, I’m often stuck carving out a little time during the day to paint.

I try to reserve Fridays to work on my personal art, but it doesn’t always happen. What’s also hard is that some Fridays I’m just not in the mood, and there are other days when I desperately need to paint but can’t. Finding the time for my personal work is a real struggle, and because it’s in the same space as the business itself, I often don’t want to come in on my days off because it feels like I’m returning to work.

I’m looking forward to the future when I have my own dedicated studio space at home away from work so I can work at any hour of the day and don’t feel obligated to do “real” work.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

EP: I’m working on realism right now, and trying to learn some glazing techniques. I’m also doing a lot more underpainting in acrylic and then taking oils on top. I like the speed of doing an underpainting in acrylic and then having the leisure to work in oils.

I’m also about to start sculpting with foam for the haunted attraction my husband and I are building. I’ve never sculpted in foam, and I haven’t been able to find anyone to teach me, so I’ve been watching a lot of videos online.

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My kind of Sunday

A post shared by Emily Page (@emilypageart) on

LL: What’s part of your kit at the moment?

EP: My favorite oils are actually Utrecht. Good quality, not too pricey. I don’t feel like I have to be stingy with it because it’s so expensive. I usually use some kind of quick drying medium like Liquin or ResinGel (I used to really like Oleopasto, but they stopped making it). I’ve also been doing some mixed media work, so I’m tearing through Matte Gel Medium.

 

LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

EP: If I’m painting plein air (find a good site include as a link), I bring my pochade box, some quick drying medium and turpenoid (I use little baby food jars for carrying the turp), and plenty of water/coffee/snacks to keep me going. I bring my phone, too, because snapping a quick picture can really help me double check my composition and flatten the space before I start sketching. I’m not a purist, whatever helps me get there is fine with me.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

EP: I’m STILL not settled on a set-up I like. Sometimes I stand when I paint, sometimes I sit, sometimes I kneel. Having a good adjustable easel is important for me for that reason. I usually get out all of the colors and supplies I think I’ll need before I paint because having to stop and get more as I go frustrates me.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you start a project?

EP: Ergonomics is really the constant battle, isn’t it? I have a number of health conditions that sometimes affect my set-up. I guess that’s why I don’t have just one way that I paint. If I’m really achy or I’m working on a small realist piece, I like a low chair, if I’m working on an expressive piece, I prefer to stand so that I can have good range of motion.

I’ve even been known to use those exercise balls to sit on. Having enough padding on the floor is key (and again is one of my big frustrations because of the limitations of the sip and paint studio space). Honestly, I know it’s crazy, but a carpeted floor with a drop cloth on it is my favorite.

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

EP: I have some high end lights I bought for photographing my work when it’s done, but they’re such a pain to set up that I keep them in storage now. I’ve found that photographing my work outside on a cloudy day gives me the best chance at capturing the real colors in a piece. I also have been known to give away media I don’t care for to other artists (I was once gifted an amazing encaustic set, but didn’t find encaustic to be a satisfying medium to work in, so I gave it to a friend. Why sell when you can gift to another starving artist who you love?).

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

EP: If you can buy in bulk and have the storage, hell yes! But don’t clutter your studio space with extra stuff if you need to feel like you have room. I make that mistake a lot – I want the good deals, but I hate feeling like I don’t have the space I need to create.

Clutter is kind of inevitable for me, but periodically I clean up because I feel so much more open in a large, clean space.

 

LL: Maintenance and Storage?

EP: I’m religious about cleaning my brushes and palette knives. Religious. Brushes are so expensive, and it’s not that hard to take a couple extra minutes to clean when you’re done. I have brushes that I’ve been using for 20 years.

If I love it, I want to be able to keep using it and not have to hunt down a brush that they may stop making in a couple years. I have canisters for my brushes so I can store them bristle up. They’re sorted by style and size (though I’m pretty loose about that) so I can find the one I want easily.

People being cruel to brushes drives me absolutely loony. That’s the hardest thing about owning a sip and paint studio – people are abusive to our brushes, so we have to replace them on a regular basis. It’s painful!

 

LL: What approach do you recommend for using and maintaining brushes?

EP: If you’re using acrylics, the key is to always leave the brushes in a cup of water when you’re not using them. People always think that, because they’ve rinsed it and it looks relatively clean when they dab it on a paper towel, that it really is clean. It’s not. Paint gets way up in those bristles and hardens when it dries. Once it’s in there, it’s going to make the brush stiff and frayed. For oils, you’ve got way more time, but I still clean my brushes after every painting session.

 

If you know you’ve got to clean your brushes before you can even start the next day, it can stop you from ever starting. Take away those kind of excuses so that you can come to each session fresh.

 

People are really heavy handed. A light touch takes practice. I rest my hand or pinky finger on the canvas when I’m painting to help me steady my pressure, and I usually hold my brush pretty close to the bristle if I’m doing anything even vaguely detailed. I use what dentists call the Fulcrum Grip, lol. . I don’t change brushes to change colors. I just clean it well in between. I’m attaching a picture of what our brushes look like when they arrive from the store and what a couple weeks of use by our customers does to them.

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your paintings came about?

EP: When I start a new piece that isn’t really part of a series, it’s because I’ve seen something that has just stuck in my brain and won’t let go. For the Drippings Triptych, I had the color palette in mind and it kept badgering me to come out. We had a painting we teach at the studio, and about a third of the way through, it looks like a lovely piece of abstract art and I just loved the colors.

(I’m attaching a photo of the studio’s painting so you can see. When we first start we just do the background color and some of the trees, and that’s what really set me off and running I had been doing some really tight work and wanted something more abstract and free, and had a wall at home that I wanted to change out the art for).

I had just been given those pieces of Masonite to try, and liked them and had purchased more for myself and had them cut so that I could make the triptych from some of the leftovers. I had done a couple other drippings pieces, and oddly, those had stemmed from a computer glitch. I had tried to print a pic of one of my paintings, and the printer screwed up and created this box within the painting and I liked how it looked. So I set out to do that intentionally on canvas.

The triptych was an extension of that. The only down side was that I was planning on doing something a little looser to give my hand a break, but I had forgotten that in order to have clean edges around the boxes, that you’ve got to get really tight and controlled in the clean-up of the lines. Murder for the hands, but I love how they came out. Serene.

 

 

LL: Have you received referrals to take your classes as an antidote to writer’s block?

EP: I haven’t, but that’s a really interesting thought. I think most people just view it as a fun night out, but I have some regulars that often say to me, “hey, it’s cheaper than therapy,” so obviously it helps them in some way. That’s really what art should be.

We all have this need to be perfect, and people are really hard on themselves in class sometimes. They forget that I’ve been painting for 30 years. If I came to their job, I wouldn’t be good at it right away either. And if it was easy, they wouldn’t need my help in the first place.

I ring a cowbell during class reminding them to take a drink or to breathe. Even when I’m working on a tough painting and it’s not going well or I’m finding it kind of stressful, it’s still good for me because it makes me stop thinking about my “real” life. I think that’s true for my customers as well. They stop thinking about job stress or home stress and they’re truly in the moment for those couple of hours that they’re painting.

 

LL: Are there any misconceptions about you that you’ve had to clarify?

EP: I’ve never really been pigeon holed as an artist (at least, not that I know of) because I do so many kinds of work. I think the hardest thing for me to get past is people not taking me seriously because I’m a petite “young” woman. I’m still called a young woman, but I’m 37, and I wonder when you stop getting called that?

Granted, I take it as a compliment that they perhaps think I’m younger than I am because of how I look, but I do think that I’m often not taken seriously because of it. When I was in art school, I was advised not to sign my paintings with my full name, because buyers won’t pay as much if they know that you’re a woman. I just sign with my first initial and last name. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I don’t want to take my chances. I do think men get taken more seriously as artists than women do, even in this day and age.

LL: Are there some questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

EP: Why the dancers? Why the elephants. They’re honest questions, though, so I don’t mind answering them.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting entries?

EP: I’m trying to post on the days that I’m already in the studio (Tuesday through Saturday) and give myself a break on Sundays and Mondays. This is mostly so that I’ll rest my hand and help the tendonitis ease.

But if I’m really excited about something, I’ll post more frequently. I’m still new to the whole blogging thing, so we’ll see if I’m able to maintain that rhythm.

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting/sharing something?

EP: I’m a pretty open and honest person. I sometimes question whether readers will get my humor, but I’m viewing the blogging like I view the art. You have to let go of the response you’re anticipating and do what makes you happy.

This is REALLY hard to do, because I’m a people pleaser, but I find that when I let go and just be creative, people generally respond well. The only time I censor is when I’m talking about someone else, like my dad. I don’t want to betray anyone’s trust. If I do talk about someone, I try to keep it in a positive light. There’s enough trash talk out there, I don’t need to add to it.

With my dad, because he can’t advocate for himself anymore with the dementia, I try to think about what he would have been comfortable with sharing, but he was a really open person, too, and decided early on not to hide what was happening (my mom embraced the same attitude, luckily).

If we can be honest about who we are and what’s happening to us, it can be therapeutic for other people reading it. That’s really what support groups are, after all: people saying, “I’ve experienced this,” and other people saying, “Yeah, me, too! I thought I was the only one!”

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

EP: I’d really love to learn a new language. I was pretty good with French for awhile, but it’s been so long since I’ve had to use it, I’ve lost most of it.

I’d love to learn Spanish, just for its usefulness.

 

I’m also going to have to learn special effects makeup for the haunt, and I’m pretty excited for that. I don’t really like creepy things, but I love the thought of getting to do prosthetics, etc.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

EP: I don’t know that mentoring is the right word. I have a friend who swaps “gratitudes” with me once a week. We each keep a gratitude journal – just stuff that makes us happy day to day, and then we email each other everything once a week.

I have a really strong history of depression (something I haven’t talked about in the blog yet, but which I undoubtedly will), so making the effort to see the good in life is vital. Emailing each other holds us accountable, and I find that, even if I’ve had a really crappy day, at the end of emailing my whole list of gratitudes for the week, I feel better. And then reading hers makes that even better, because it alerts you to things you didn’t know make you happy. It can be really simple things like the crunch of ice when you step on a frozen puddle, but it makes you see some good when you might otherwise be cranky about freezing your butt off.

I have another friend who’s daughter is about to turn 10 and is struggling with self esteem, and I think is tending toward depression. So I sent her a gratitude journal and asked her to be my pen pal and trade gratitudes, too. I really want her to get in the habit while she’s young, because it could make a difference in her teenage years.

I’m also trying to be more cognizant of who I surround myself with. I’m looking for people that believe in me and push me, and I try to reciprocate as much as possible. We need to work harder at being of value to each other’s lives. Let’s grow together.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

EP: I watch FRIENDS religiously. And HGTV. I freakin’ love makeovers (home or beauty). And Harry Potter is kind of awesome, I have to admit. That being said, I’m not really someone who goes and looks up every fact that ever was about something I like. So I don’t know if it qualifies as geeking out.

 

I’m also really fascinated by medical stuff. I have several conditions that have required me to be my own advocate, which means you have to learn about the science-y stuff. I used to run a local support group in FL through the Endometriosis Research Center. And I worked for awhile as a paralegal helping people get their disability benefits, which meant that I had to be able to write coherently about their illnesses. I really enjoyed that work. If I had better memorization skills (as an actor, I was good at remembering lines, but holding minutia in my brain was never my strong suit), I probably would have become a doctor. Ooh, or a surgeon since I have steady hands.

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

EP: Anything that’s not “fair,” lol. I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I do have to be careful though, because if I play the “ain’t it awful” game (as my dad called it), it puts me into a negative mindset which makes me more susceptible to falling back into a depression.

I will say that I’m kind of obsessed with public radio shows right now. My top 3 faves are This American Life, RadioLab (I love the random science crap I learn on that show – I just wish I could remember it to spit it out in conversation later), and Serial.

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

EP: I actually used to be a radio deejay for WTJU (wtju.net) with my dad (he was a jazz sax and clarinet player). We played jazz, jazz, and jazz. It was called Nick@Nine, Monday morning jazz to make you feel good. I love all types except smooth, which makes me want to cut my ears off and shove them into the soprano sax to clog it up and make it stop.

I’m a jazz singer (I know, I act, I sing, I paint – I’m good at everything that’s exceptionally hard to make a living doing), so I lean more towards vocalists. My favorite jazz vocalist is Carmen McRae, though I love Nnenna Freelon, Stephanie Nakasian. If you don’t know about Stephanie Nakasian, you need to. She’s probably the most underrated jazz singer and can scat like Ella.

I was fortunate enough to be her very first voice student. Her husband is Hod O’Brien, one of the greatest piano players of our era. Really amazing. My cats have all been named after jazz musicians (Ella, Satchmo, Dizzy, and Frankie – because he had blue eyes like Frank Sinatra). I had stopped listening to jazz for awhile after we put my dad into a dementia care facility, because it was just too painful for me. But I’m starting to be able to listen again and enjoy it – still depends on the day, though.

 

My favorite non-jazz musician (though who does often have a jazz vibe to her work) is Ani Difranco. I looooooooove me some Ani. I sing and sing and sing to her. She writes the soundtrack to my life.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

EP: I’m reading a novel right now that isn’t really all that interesting, so I won’t bother plugging it. I’m one of those people who can’t stop reading once I’ve started, even though I’m not enjoying it. My favorite book of all time is Fugitive Pieces (the first half is incredible). I just read The Art Forger and was absolutely fascinated with the descriptions of how to recreate the aged look in art. I also really like The Goldfinch, though I was a little disappointed when I looked up what the actual painting was. Not as captivating as the book described. Tracy Chevalier’s books are a little romance novel-y, but I love that they include some really interesting stuff about how art was made way back when.

I like books about World War II. No idea why. I also really love Wally Lamb’s writing. He just sucks me in. I have my mom’s old Kindle, so lately I just read whatever she’s downloaded – which means I’m reading a lot of mystery books.

In terms of blogs, my favorite is http://thebloggess.com/ (If you haven’t read her book, you need to. Right now. I’ll wait.) I also have a friend from college with a great blog, http://www.lilblueboo.com/ I like their blogs because they’re both honest and look for the bright side of things. And they can get twisted. Twisted is good.

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

EP: I’m actually really horrible about keeping up with the art world. It does stimulate me when I come across good art, but it also can block me. It can make me feel unoriginal, or like someone is doing it better than me. I love discovering new musicians, though.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

EP: I don’t actively seek it. I prefer to let it come to me organically. By surrounding myself with people I admire and love, they tend to feed me inspiration without me having to go looking for it. I find that the universe gives it to you when you’re ready. I think I mentioned before that I go through dry spells. Kind of like writer’s block, and that that used to panic me.

These days, I trust that it’ll come around again and I’ll have more ideas than I know what to do with.

LL: What makes you smile?

EP: I love bad puns. My dad and I used to trade them. It’s one of the reasons the Muppets are so genius (watch the Muppets Christmas Carol this year). I love irreverent humor (for an example, go to http://www.lilblueboo.com/category/elf-on-the-shelf-2). I love musical humor (like Victor Borge). These two things [‘Data’s Life Form Song’ and ‘Peter Catching a Bullfrog for Chris’] also always make me crack up.

Editor’s Note: for the link to the second clip Emily mentions — put in your request here.

LL: What’s your view about social media?

EP: I wasn’t keen on it at first, but now I love it. I’m connected to so many people that I wouldn’t otherwise still be in touch with. I’m so grateful for that. I know it can take over your life, but you just have to exercise a little self-discipline and limit your time on it. It’s also made opening a business and promoting my artwork so much easier.

I have to admit I’m not a twitter fan, because brevity is not my strong suit, but I love Facebook. And blogging has been an unexpected surprise. I thought I wouldn’t have anything to say, but that’s clearly not the case.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

EP: I’m still getting into reading blogs. My go-to remains The Bloggess.

 

LL: Do you currently post at Forums?

EP: I don’t do Forums. Haven’t really explored that yet. I do sometimes participate with the Endometriosis Research Center, but way less frequently than I used to.

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Studio window snowflakes

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LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

EP: I don’t really try to cheer myself up. Sometimes I just need a little pity party. I’ll snuggle with my cats and husband and hide for a little bit. But if I do it for too many days in a row, I try to kick myself in the ass and focus on the things I’m thankful for.

And I’m learning to reach out to my friends and say that I could use a little help. I have hilarious friends with an arsenal of bad puns to make me smile. My mom is also an incredible support, and I can be honest with her when I’m getting depressed.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

EP: I haven’t really explored that option either. I would really like to try it, though. I think it could foster some really interesting stuff.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

EP: No. I’m a luddite. I’m grateful that the internet and computers exist, and they make my life easier in many ways, but I hate learning how to use everything. I’m about to try learning how to use Pinnacle, but it’s under duress.

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Lead soldiers that my grandfather made.

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LL: If you were asked to pick from the pieces you have created, which one would be your favourite?

EP: Wow, tough question. I’ll give you one in each style: From the Dancers, Vogue is my fave. From the Still Life paintings, I like my tomato paintings. From the Fractured Memories, I think the Happy Elephant Singing Emily will probably be the one I’ll keep.

 

LL: For someone seeing something of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

EP: As much as you can, let go of the outcome and don’t be afraid to experiment and make bad art. And enjoy the process of playing with whatever medium you’re using. Relish that gush of paint. Look for the pieces in a painting that you really like and figure out how to do it again.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

EP: Music and laughter. When someone I love laughs, it’s like heaven on a sound wave. When my dad laughs, it’s like when a really little kid laughs – incredibly precious and something that sustains me. If I blow a raspberry noise at him, he cracks up, and it makes my whole day.

The right song can have the same effect. There are some things for which there are no words, and music and art can convey those.

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Gravestone in Marblehead

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LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

EP: I think replying to comments and emails is important. It lets people know that they’re as important to you as you are to them. We all need to feel special and we can only feel that way if people are as generous with their love as we are with ours.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

EP: I think my top priority is to find buyers for my work. It’s hard to justify making more art when you’ve got a storage unit full of it – not that that stops me, but it would stop my husband from grousing, lol. I love commissions because it allows me to make a piece and know that it’s got a home waiting for it.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

EP: It’s the little kindnesses that I think make the most difference. I’ve organized Random Acts of Kindness Days at my studio and encouraged my customers to participate.

I’ll be passing out holiday cards to the Walmart staff next week to say thank you for their hard work. People get so little appreciation for the work they do. I’m good with illness and death, so I used to volunteer with Hospice doing 11th Hour care and respite care.

I grew up volunteering at Camp Holiday Trails, a camp for kids with special health needs. I’ve done some murals for free for sick kids. These days, I have so little extra time to volunteer, and my husband and I have been talking about how much I miss that. We do monthly fundraisers for local charities, and that’s great, but it doesn’t really feed the soul in quite the same way.

I need to find a way to carve out more time for actual volunteering, because nothing makes you feel better than giving without expecting anything in return.

 

* Emily Page is a painter currently based in Raleigh. You can learn more about her via her blog or her Instagram feed. To purchase her work, you can visit this page.”

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (December 2014 – January 2015) between Emily and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Emily that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Emily the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is now on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock me in to be involved in your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact me or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Emily’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #15: Anton Zabermach

 

Anton shares his journey as a photographer, the importance of imagining the how you would like the image to look like, and how he ended up with a ton (more than 15k) of favourite photos on Flickr.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Anton! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. In your photostream I noticed that your photos alternate between coloured and black & white. Do you find yourself shooting purely in Black and White for a time, then find that you want to go for colour?

Anton Zabermach: If we’re talking about my choice, it does depend on how I’m feeling that day. If it were up to someone else, I am okay with them going with colour or B&W.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

 

AZ: First, the encouragement and healthy criticism from loved ones, secondly, the wish to create something new and something that won’t be similar to other peoples work. Thirdly and then – technical boring stuff 🙂

You can perfectly master the technical part of the process and successfully apply knowledge into practice, but if you have no distinguishing vision in your mind – that won’t work.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AZ: There are tons of different learning plans and I won’t create anything new here. My advise is not to shoot thoughtlessly, you should try to imagine the final photograph in your mind, after all alterations have been done (software filters etc), you should think “will that photograph be interesting for anyone?” If so – you can capture that moment. If not – well, suggest why and try to change something to meet that goal.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph? Do you plan when you take photos?

AZ: I don’t usually think if it’s the best or worst time for the photoshoot. I probably won’t be shooting if it’s freezing outside, in all other circumstances – why not? You should know what you want, and then decide the time of day – whether it will be morning or evening, sunny weather or cloudy one and so on. My Nikon FE2 is always on hand and also a pair of lenses (24mm and 50mm or 50mm and 135mm or 35mm and 85mm) and a couple of film rolls of course.

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AZ: Of course! I learn from my own mistakes 🙂

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AZ: Well, actually I don’t have any specific set-ups either.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

AZ: I have been wanting to buy a medium format camera. Bronica, for example. I rarely use digital camera, but there are some situations when I can’t use anything else (i.e. commercial photoshoots which I do not post on my Flickr photostream).

As for useless stuff – I do not keep it, but actually I can’t remember anything I previously brought after awhile it dawned on me “why I had made that stupid purchase?”

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

AZ: Actually before your question I didn’t even think of ergonomics and all that healthy stuff you are asking about 🙂


LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

AZ: The main thing is not to drop your cameras or lenses, all other things are survivable.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

AZ: I used to print my photographs the time I was just starting, now I don’t see any need for that – digital copies are enough. I have got an old photo enlarger but it needs to be repaired, so if I repair it someday probably I will be printing my photographs again.

 

LL: Do you find yourself browsing other photographers’ work quite often?

 AZ: I always browse other photographers’ works if I have spare time. All photos which I tagged as favourites are just photos about which I liked the colour or composition, idea or realisation or something else or all that together. These 11000 favourited photos should not be considered as 11000 masterpieces, they are just photographs which caught my [eye].

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of uploading photos on Flickr?

AZ: I always have something to share. I post about 3-4 photos per day, but if I don’t have enough time for that, I don’t mind.

 

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

AZ: Politics and stupid jokes 🙂

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

AZ: I listen to music a bit more often than an average listener and I don’t care if other people listen to the same artists. There are some bands, just to understand my taste: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Porcupine Tree, Morcheeba, The Jam, Infected Mushroom. The list is long, actually. Also I can listen to any album of Lunatic Soul for infinity. And I’ve got some friends who are musicians, I make photos for them from time to time.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AZ: I look at my environment. I Feel inspired by the air, people, city, rain, sun and so on.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AZ: I rarely interact on social media. Though I have profiles on Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook — I just view photos and read news.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

AZ: I post to some groups on Facebook. Just found these groups, joined and started to post – that’s all.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AZ: I just walk around and enjoy the city

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

AZ: It depends on the type of collaboration. If it seems interesting for me (even if it’s not profitable) – than yes, why not.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AZ: Not really. I use open-source software, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. I use Darktable and GIMP for work with photos.

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which ones would be your favourite?

AZ: They are all favourites and I have something to tell about each of them. I think I haven’t done my best shot yet.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

AZ: I prefer live small-scale conversations.

 

 

* Anton Zabermach is a photographer. You can see more of his photos on Flickr.

 Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September-December 2014) between Anton and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Anton that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Anton the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is now on Facebook! 🙂
  • Since this post has less than 1,500 words I’m not tagging it to be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock me in to be involved in your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact me or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Anton’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.