Andric

Posted on: May 15th, 2008 by: Zack Seckler

Final image used in adWritten by T.K. Dalton
Edited by Jesi Khadivi
Diagrams by Gil Andrei Fontimayor

Andric applies his rigorous aesthetic to everything he shoots. “Everything in the shot is a choice. If there’s a lamppost on location and I do not remove it, it’s almost as if I put it there on purpose,” he says. A master of both still life and location imagery, Andric has a long list of clients including AT&T, Panasonic, Palm and Corona. He is also one of Lurzer’s International Archive’s “200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide” from 2006-2007. His range from studio product shots to surreal location imagery is impressive. The latter, he says, is “too easy in photography, especially with [the] post-production that you can do.” Life is stranger than the fiction of the image, he suggests, adding that art should strive to produce moments that “just slightly extend what’s possible.”

One of the shots used in the final composite imageHe shot our featured image for IGA, a Canadian supermarket chain. The clear blender was the key to communicating his client’s mantra: “Disregard the packaging, look at the content,” as Andric puts it. The image was highly visible, plastered across not just magazine spreads and in-store displays but also on billboards and even the sides of delivery trucks. The crew’s session took all day. The blender was adapted, the engine dismantled, the blades adjusted and placed in a clear acrylic cylinder. Andric attached some vertical phone cord to spread the splatter. Wanting to make it look less like a standard still life shot, he selected a wide angle lens to give the image a different feel from the standard product shots done using more telephoto lenses. Andric captured all the images with a Hasselblad H2 camera with a Phase One P 45 phase back and a 80mm lens. He used an aperture of f/13 and a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second, but the exposure was really determined by the flash duration, which wasOne of the shots used in the final composite image 1/8000th of a second on Bronclor Grafit A2 packs. The lighting consisted of a Broncolor Hazylight above the product and a Broncolor ring flash for fill. Andric took 70 shots of the splashes and an additional 30 of still pieces, yogurt densities, and hands. He modified the background color to be very slightly off white so the yogurt would read as 100% white. He insisted on using real food rather than the glue more commonly used in food shoots, as well as not one but two adapted blenders to maximize efficiency on the shoot. Andric tasked an assistant with cleaning the cylinders while he shot about a hundred images. “We chose maybe six or seven different splashes for the top of the image and we just combined them in a way that made sense.” he says. “Once all that was assembled we just removed the cylinder in post-production.”

Andric has a unique talent for bending the limits of reality in a subtle yet convincing way. In one image a woman effortlessly kayaks through rolling hills covered in tall grass; it appears believable until one realizes…kayaks don’t move so easily on land. In another image, a young woman pulls a giant white bag of balloons, simultaneously seeming both weightless and massive, through a bizarre underground structure. As his experience has accumulated throughout the years he has battled routine with randomness. “What catches your attention is visual ambiguity,” he says, adding that in commercial work, neither ambiguity norOverhead view of lighting reality can be forced.

Andric was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:

F STOP: A lot of the work that you do is more location based. How did the client come to think of you for this shoot?

Andric: I moved to North America from Italy about five years ago. This is my twentieth year in the business. I did a lot more still life and studio photography in Italy than I did here. European advertising is much more constructed reality indoors. I think people do not relate to the outdoors as intensely as we do here. There’s more big open spaces in North America, so it carries a stronger emotional content and value in advertising. I’ve done several jobs of different natures with the agency before. Some of them are on my website. I won three or four awards with them. I’ve known the creative directors and everyone there for many years. In this particular case, they thought I was a good choice because they knew I do most of my own post-production and I’m detail oriented.

F STOP: Tell me about how you created our featured image.

Andric: The campaign was for a large supermarket chain in Canada that is known for the quality of their produce. Not only did we have the implementation of a normal print campaign, the image was on trucks and large in-store posters. This all required highly detailed, high resolution images, especially because its food and we wanted to make sure that everything looked crunchy and yummy. We chose digital so we could have immediate feedback. It was also the logical choice for shooting movement. The image was shot with a P-45 back and the flash equipment was Broncolor. I was able to bring the speed for the duration of the shot up to 1/8000th of a second and still maintain the color balance. I could have a blender spinning full speed and still freeze theAn image from Andric’s personal portfolio droplets in mid-air. There was a degree of randomness with the blender that was impossible to control. In this case we decided to create machines that produced the splashes the way we wanted it rather than do any 3-D stuff. Our prop guy took a hand blender, dismantled the engine and the blades that spin and put them upward in a clear new acrylic cylinder which was very thin. Instead of having the blades spin horizontally as they do in your home blender we applied two pieces of vertical phone cord. I did maybe a hundred shots. We chose the basic pieces from them and then we chose six or seven different splashes for the top of the image and combined them in a way that made sense. Once all that was assembled we removed the cylinder in post-production. We shot with a relatively wide-angle lens because we wanted to make it feel less like a pack shot. We also wanted to emphasize the movement because the wide-angle effect, however slight it was in our shot, always added something to the movement. The background was plain white. We added a hint of warm color on the top to make the white stand out. If the direct background was completely white my yogurt would look grey. We introduced around a 6% density on the background because that is the least that you will successfully read in a print newspaper. They have a number of applications so we had to be on the safe side. The highlights of my yogurt were a pure white so you could see that that substance is whiter than the background. It’s funny how the eye does it’s own white balance. If you do such a background as we did, your eye reads that as complete white so your yogurt looks suddenly even brighter than white. That’s a basic outline. All of the shots in the campaign had pretty much the same procedure, but they all presented different technical issues. For example: how do you make the movement real? How do you avoid the glass container? We had to use glass containers in every case, so we found that the thinnest glass we could get. Anything that’s even marginally thicker, will introduce it’s own distortion. We had to make a lot of little adjustments throughout to compensate for distortion. We had to do some liquefying in Photoshop to bring back the straight lines.

F STOP: You mentioned that you took about 100 captures of this. How long did that take?

Andric: It took us the best part of the day. We had two cylinders so we could wash one while the other one was being shot. We started fairly early. We took about 70 shots of the splashes and another 30 of different elements: still pieces, yogurt densities, hands.

F STOP: You did you the post-production on this yourself?

Andric: I did everything on my own. You really have to experiment, it’s like doing a watercolor.

F STOP: What different challenges does a location shoot present to you versus doing a still lifeAn image from Andric’s personal portfolio shoot?

Andric: There are many things on location that are not fully predictable. When you look for a location for a shoot, you are trying to find a location that is a perfect theatre for what you are trying to put there. But also a place that has some elements of randomness that will make it feel real. If you shoot on location you are going to find things that are going to surprise yourself in the first place, whereas when you’re photographing in the studio, you start from blank canvas. I find it endlessly stimulating to find a place that’s totally unexpected because reality is always very unexpected. That’s the best thing about shooting on location. Now, the difficulty is that on a bad day or in the wrong light, the place can look completely different than what you expected. I love doing shorter projects. I actually function best in situations of reduced options, when things are happening in a limited space and time your brain just operates differently. You immediately find the best angles and options. That’s why I actually like shooting location work, because it offers you with less opportunity. Also, everything is always different. It’s never gonna be a completely repeated situation, which I feel can be the case in the studio.

F STOP: Your location work does involve people but they almost resemble still life, what do you like about working with people versus objects?

Andric: In a nutshell, the constructed reality is something that’s been a subject of a lot of art forever. In photography there are people like Cindy Sherman who use herself, or Erwin Olaf who does cinematic style work, etc. You can take it from many angles. The only thing I feel awkward about is when you really, really try to make it like it’s really spontaneous. Because it’s so obviously not when you do advertising. It’s clearly something that somebody told these people to do, so I’d rather embrace that and do things like introducing some positive ambiguity. The reason I’m saying positive ambiguity is that I don’t think that in advertising you can use a David Lynch style of photography. It won’t fly at least for a lot of projects, let alone what the clients wants. David Lynch is my absolute hero but in advertising you have to have usually more positive sort of look. I find that very intriguing if the body language is odd. There’s one shot on my website with those two guys shaking hands. When you first look at it there’s something odd about them. They’re dressed the same way and then you look closely you can tell that it’s the same guy. But the idea is it’s not in your face. Not as much like in the ping-pong guy, where you can clearly tell that it’s the same guy. These pictures the ambiguity makes you think, ‘Hmm, what is this about? Is it the same guy? What isAn image from Andric’s personal portfolio happening? Why are they so isolated?’ Yes, you use people as a bit of a still life but then again what you play with is their ambiguity of the movement. You try to find body positions that are somewhat odd, but not unreal. There’s a phase of the movement that can go in many directions. So you can interpret it as an aggression or you can interpret it as an awkwardness or something else. So I just find that part more interesting. It’s like the image of the woman with a towel on the beach. The hair flying in the air, the dress, the irregularity of it. The fact that it’s not perfect but in a sort of a controlled way I find that interesting. I don’t necessarily use people as a still life, but I definitely do not try to represent those specific people. It’s more about the gesture and some kind of an inner place and their sense of expectation, which are all very intimate sensations and physiological conditions. You’re using the whole body more than a person’s face. I do find myself awkward in doing portraits because I’m truly not strictly interested in that specific person, but our general condition. I am much more interested in the ambiguity of the body language and the unexpected unpredictable randomness that comes with it.

F STOP: So you’re treating them from a technical aspect as a still life but from a content standpoint it’s quite different.

Andric: Absolutely. It’s more of a selecting a process than directing process. You just let the models do their thing. You do 50 shoots, and then you choose the one that has that magical ambiguity that I was talking about.

F STOP: Have you ever been asked to do portraiture work?

Andric: Yes. There was a book on the Italian National Rugby team that was really interesting. The way we shot it was interesting because we organized a little studio space in their changing room. Just after the training, when they’re all muddy and full of adrenaline and scratched with pieces ofAn image from Andric’s personal portfolio grass, blood and mud, they would come back into the changing room and we would take five minutes with each of them and do the portrait. They don’t have the time to be self-conscious in that sort of situation. It was a very exciting operation because it felt like they were trying to figure me out while I was actually photographing them. If I ever do more portraiture, it’s going to be in the direction where you make it awkward. You’re not trying to necessarily represent that specific person, but kind of take some kind of general characteristics and bring them out that belong to all of us.

F STOP: You have a theme in your work in which your images seem like they’re from an alternate reality. You seem to think of things in a fantastical way. Tell me what appeals to you about this and what you want people to take away from it.

Andric: I always liked imagery that represents things that are possible but highly improbable, let’s put it that way, rather than surreal. I think that the surreal is something that doesn’t belong strictly to photography. I think photography is more appropriate for those moments that almost look like daydreaming, rather than a dream. Moments where you slightly extend what’s possible. Like the shot with the woman with the long towel. The towel is just extraordinarily long, and the fact that the shape of the towel is going upwards corresponds exactly to a little wave that’s below it at that exact moment. It’s absolutely possible. It’s like a one in a million chance that you’re gonna be there to take a shot in that moment. Let alone the size of the towel, which by the way was real. We had it made like a big canvas. If you stay within the realm of something that’s marginally possible but highly improbably, it’s stimulating. It can give the viewer a sense of lightness.

F STOP: Why do you want people to look at things with a lighter eye?

Andric: I think we’re always stimulated by giving a finer value to things. We’re told that things have a very specific meaning, a very specific value. Usually it’s a very moral value. I believe that the grey zone is not something that we should be afraid of. I think that’s where the beauty lies because we need to make choices every step of the way about how we perceive things. In advertising everything is usually about making a very finite statement about things. My reaction to what I do everyday is to try to make non-commercial imagery, which goes in the exact opposite direction. It’s funny how that ambiguity and grey zone that I was talking about in my non-commercial work, is typically what brings me the best of the commercial work I get to do.An image from Andric’s portfolio

F STOP: There’s a lot of empty space in your personal work. Is this a conscious choice on your part?

Andric: Great observation. I’m glad you’re noticing it. I always believed that negative space is where most of the stuff happens. I always like the Japanese aesthetic, a lot of it is about negative space. It’s about what’s missing, a lack of central focal point. Everything is about displacement and asymmetry. If you leave enough negative space a person will fill it up. If you focus on the subject of the shot, not content, then you’re just being informative. If you put that subject in a wider stage with a lot more space, you’re creating space for other things to happen. It’s strangely correlated to time. The subject of the shot is not in the center but on the side and there’s all this empty space because somebody else needs to walk into the stage, things are yet to happen. Imagine the shot of the woman with a towel cropped in tight on her. It would all be about her hair, the towel and the wave. It wouldn’t be about the mood. I think the negative space that you put in an image usually defines the mood of the picture and a lot of my imagery is more about mood than about content. The content is the mood.

F STOP: You definitely achieve that. I want to talk to you a little bit more about the process in creating your personal work. With the towel image for example, you had the towel prop especially made, did you have the idea already planned out?

Andric: I had the idea of doing the big towel because I was just toying with the size of things. I liked that simplicity of lines, contour and space with a clean environment on the beach. Then I thought, ‘what could they be doing?’ So I made a little list of things people do on the beach and then decided the towel should be four times the size of normal and fly around. Once you are on location all kinds of things come to mind. A lot of it, like the waves that match the towel, came up halfway through. You try to leave space in your non-commercial work to try unexpected things. That’s why I didn’t want to plan out absolutely everything. Each element is very natural, but put together they create an image of randomness. Bear in mind, I’ve been doing location work with really large productions and producers for many years. I have an automatic pilot when it comes to basic organization. It’s important to be sure that you leave yourself enough space for afterwards. For instance, if I shoot a wave that I know will perfect right as I shoot it, I’m still going to shoot a few more because in post-production I will be sorry if I didn’t.

F STOP: When you do your personal work? Is it usually following a commissioned shoot or do you make other time in your schedule?

Andric: I typically go to a shoot a couple of days ahead and maybe do something on my own, my own project. Now, I have increasingly been producing things independently. It’s actually much less distracting if you just fly on your own. The Nantucket images were my own project. I’m terrible at drawing, but I make sketches to visualize the basic elements. It really does help when you feed it to the people that you hire. Typically I hire people who work either in movies or advertising. Movie people are much more used to very well planned things than fashion people, who usually work in editorial which is much looser. If you give a movie person a layout or a storyboard, they operate better because they can see that you know where you’re going. Film crews absolutely hate working with directors or photographers who are loose. They like things to be stated clearly. Then they feel they can trust you because they feel like they belong to a team where their professionalism is taken seriously.An image from Andric’s portfolio

F STOP: Do you always start with a specific concept and a specific storyboard for an image?

Andric: I do, although along the way things can come up that were unplanned. The kayak and towel shots were planned, but I do have other shots in that series that we did just because we found some really cool locations.

F STOP: How did you get your start as a photographer?

Andric: Well I started doing some architectural photography which is really difficult. It was the 80’s. Doing architectural photography in the 80’s with no computers. The 80’s were terrible. I mean they were doing these interiors with these mirrors and halogen lights. It was just gross. You would see fingerprints everywhere. And there was no way to clean that up so you really had to be good with your Polariods and testing and so on. I never assisted. I think that it probably took a lot longer to get some technical stuff straight because I didn’t do that, but for my character it was the right thing to do. When the whole computer thing started, I switched to that and the rest is what you see today. I did my first advertising job in 1988 for Saatchi and Saatchi in Rome, Italy for Hertz rental car. I started working with my agents in Italy around 12 years ago, then I had agents in Europe and Canada; My US agent is Tim Mitchell, who I do 80% of my work with.

F STOP: Tell me about the project that you’re working on now.

Andric: There is the series of two people interacting and, in some cases, they are obviously the same person. The fact that it is the same person brings an element of simplicity into the image. It makes that person more generic, but without making him look like an android. The fact that you’re duplicating him makes him more general because your eye doesn’t look for differences. I’m also interested in the relationship between the ambiguity of action within a space. Space is always a stage that you set by defining what we see within the edges of the picture. When you introduce people in an interaction we look at them first and then look at everything else. By then introducing other elements within the image that can be focal points, you introduce several layers of reading and your eye kind of goes around to discover other things.

Sacha Waldman

Posted on: May 1st, 2008 by: Zack Seckler

Written by JoAnne Tobias
Edited by Jesi Khadivi
Diagrams by Gil Andrei Fontimayor

Final imageDon’t call Sacha Waldman a traditionalist. This South African photographer never took a photography class. He never shot film. Jumping straight into digital, Waldman just tinkered with his images until he found inspiration. “Experimentation is the main thing,” said Waldman. “You create a look that turns you on….and you move from there.”

Still, no amount of post-production can replace solid ideas. For example, this set for the Kohler ad took a week to construct – from weathering the wood to hand crafting the cabinets. The final image was composed from four separate shots, honed during a couple days of post. Now the look is iconic, but at the time Waldman was one of only a few photographers creating digital art. “It had a huge impact on the industry,” said Waldman. “It sparked a lot of interest in that particular look.”

Initially the Kohler ad was meant to only have a sole beautiful woman shucking oysters. Waldman looked through the camera and realized something was missing. Looking around the studio set, the photographer saw one of the workmen Kohler had sent to install the faucets. Suddenly Waldman realized he’d found his own pearl- the missing narrative. “I looked at him and said hell, let’s use him,” said Waldman. “So we dressed him up and threw him in there and it worked brilliantly.”

The execution of this image is nothing short of brilliant either. The set was lit with a total of six lights. Two Profoto heads bounced into umbrellas lit the background, two Profoto heads with 10° grids added side light, one Profoto head with a 5° grid brought out detail in the oysters, and one Profoto bi-tube head placed inside a 7’ Octabank lit the whole set. A Mamiya 645 with a Leaf Aptus 22 digital back teathered to a G5 Mac was used for image capture. The exposure was f/16 at 125th of a second at 100 ISO. The seascape background was shot separately and added in post.Overhead view of lighting

This campaign proved to be lucrative for Waldman, not only in securing a second Kohler contract, but in ramping his career up to the next level. The elaborate post-production combined with the detailed sets caught the attention of art directors and other photographers. Suddenly the creative field was dissecting his work, trying to recreate his look.

Though Waldman compares himself to a painter who brushes his raw files with strokes from PhotoShop, he actually seems more like a celebrated chef who won’t share his recipes. He holds back not out of avarice, but because he cannot- instinct guides his technique. “I’ve had so many people ask me what tends to be the magical ingredient in the old soup….it’s a lot of lightening and darkening and bringing out textures in what you have in front of you. It’s a lot of enhancing what’s there.”

Now that Waldman’s look has climbed up the advertising billboards and become mainstream, he’s about to discard it. To that end, the innovative photographer has been busy reinventing himself, developing a look that ventures even deeper into fantasy and highly detailed composites.

“It’s time for me to challenge myself again. I’m not the type of personal photographer who’s just going to bang out the same look for 25 years and hope that my career can be kept alive,” said Waldman. “I will always change.”

Waldman was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:

F STOP: How did you produce and shoot the featured image for Kohler?

Waldman: Once I saw what the product was I worked with them to develop the idea. We decided on a man at an oyster stand with a woman sitting there and shucking oysters. It was a really big production. I worked with a great set designer named Jared who made all of the structural stuff, the sinks and the faucets in the actual wooden stand and the floor and the closet above it. That was all built as a set. The image was quite iconic at the time. It had a huge impact on the industry. It sparked a lot of interest because there wasn’t much of that kind of work at that time.

F STOP: How long did the set take to build?An image from Waldman’s portfolio

Waldman: About a week. Jared put a lot of work into it.

F STOP: You mentioned that you worked with the client on the concept. How much freedom did you have in creating this image?

Waldman: I had freedom to a degree. You don’t have complete freedom. If I would have said “listen, I’d like to put this sink and this faucet on Mars” we couldn’t do it. We had to work within a certain genre, but we definitely had way more freedom than you usually have in commercial photography.

F STOP: Do you often experience that?

Waldman: People that I work with now realize that I like to be involved early to be creative and help conceptualize. Sometimes you get the ability to do it and sometimes you don’t. It totally varies on the client. People are pretty strict with what they want nowadays, so I think we were definitely fortunate to have a hell of a lot more freedom with Kohler (than we would otherwise).

F STOP: Was it a one day shoot?

Waldman: It was one day of building and one day of actual shooting.

F STOP: Tell me about the post-production in this image.

Waldman: I do all the post-production work myself. After so many years of doing it I shoot around what I’m going to be doing in post-production. With this particular image there was about two days of post-work afterwards. We obviously put the background in which I think I shot in Florida a couple of months earlier. I shot the seagull as well and put that in there. We put more oysters in front of her so you know there is always some very finicky stuff that needs to happen. Obviously you need to spend a lot of time with the product because the client always wants the product to look perfect.

F STOP: This image has a very specific look and some of your other images have a similar look. Can you give me an idea of what you do to achieve this?

Waldman: I’ve had so many people ask me what tends to be the magical ingredient in the old soup. It’s a lot of lightening and darkening and bringing out textures in what you have in front of you. It’s a lot of enhancing what’s there, it’s not one particular look or feel. For example in post-production you have filters that do certain things. It’s nothing like that. There’s no pre-described technique that I have where I can just hit a button and any image will look exactly like that. No one image ever really looks the same because it depends on my mood or perspective at the time. So it’s just a matter of playing with color and tone and texture and just creating a look that I am drawn to.

F STOP: When did you start doing this?

An image from Waldman’s portfolioWaldman: About seven years ago, when I was really starting the Hip Hop stuff. I never shot on film and did things traditionally. I was digital right from the beginning. I remember seeing a photographer who was working on this huge machine and moving things around in an image. I was living in London 12 years ago and I don’t even think Macs and Photoshop were even around then. That was my moment of inspiration. When I saw that I thought : that’s what I want to do.

F STOP: Do you think you were one of the pioneers in that kind of style?

Waldman: Yeah, but without sounding pretentious or blowing smoke up my ass because that’s not my character. I’m not saying I was the sole person. There were a couple of us that were generating this look that was definitely unique. It was a look that wasn’t out there and I started getting it out there and then it kind of obviously started influencing people.

F STOP: How did you start doing this look? I know that you’re saying there’s no specific button you’re hitting, that it’s a mixture of stuff. But how did you arrive at that look to begin with?

Waldman: I was working in the Hip-Hop industry a lot. I wasn’t inspired by the raw image once I got it into Photoshop, so I just started to experiment a lot. Once you experiment and you create a look that just turns you on, you move from there.

F STOP: Do you get more satisfaction out of actually photographing or out of the post-production?

Waldman: It varies from project to project. The Kohler image was exciting because I was working with people and we were building sets and creating the actual main bones of the image. The post-production wasn’t that intense in the sense of putting all these elements in. However, the post-production is always fun for me because I work alone and I do my thing. I never work with people around me. A lot of my new work is far more heavily post-production orientated. It’s really, really exciting stuff. I’m coming up with a whole new wave of work that I’m really excited about because I think it’s got a very unique look and feel.An image from Waldman’s portfolio

F STOP: How do you maintain creativity in your work?

Waldman: I would describe a creative person as somebody who creates images, looks and feels primarily for themselves. I think with this particular (digital) look and feel being so mainstream, it’s time for me to challenge myself again. I’m not the type of personal photographer who’s just going to bang out the same look for 25 years and hope that my career can be kept alive. For me, it becomes very dull and boring, and obnoxious. You’ve got to grow and change and that’s why I’ve stepped into a whole new genre now. You’ve got to keep yourself fresh and inspired.

F STOP: Can you talk about the new look that you’re working on right now?

Waldman: It’s really, really highly detailed involved fantasy based work that deals with illustration and compositing. I’m using all the technology and computers and three-dimensional work and putting it all together. I think in the next 4 or 5 months I should have a lot of it done.

F STOP: You were talking about how you recreate yourself periodically. How important do you thing that is for commercial photographers to do?

Waldman: I think it’s as important as a person wants to make it for themselves. It’s tough working commercially as a creative person when you want to be inspired and push boundaries. Often you don’t get that opportunity commercially. So if you just stick to doing that type of work you can get frustrated on a spiritual and creative level.

F STOP: Tell me a little bit about doing personal work. There’s not a lot up on your website.

Waldman: The personal side of my work has recently reared it’s head again. When you work commercially as a creative person and you develop a style that becomes popular you start to work a lot. You end up getting so busy and you get caught up in this machine where you honestly don’t really have a lot of time and energy to do your own personal work. About two years ago I was photographing 90 year old people naked in New York. I didn’t put a lot of that work in the commercial portfolio because sometimes agents and clients get scared by it. It’s such a difficult balance because you do get pigeonholed or steered into trading a look that’s not necessarily you at all. A client could be loving my portfolio then they would turn to an image of 95-year-old woman naked. For me it is a beautiful thing, hey we all get old. But sometimes it would scare people and they would then think that my work in general would be too dark.

F STOP: Did you actually experience that from clients?

Waldman: Oh yeah. Many times. A few years ago my work was a lot edgier. Initially there was a lot more of my personal work in my portfolio. Over the years I whittled it out because as you become successful as a working photographer people want to see a certain look. I did actually lose quite a few jobs in the past where people looked at certain images and got scared by them, and said that might be a little bit too out there, or a little bit too dark. Especially celebrity based work. The work eventually just came out of the portfolio because it just wasn’t worth it.

F STOP: You’ve photographed a lot of celebrities. Tell me a little bit about how you work. How do you approach working with a big personality like Sacha Baron Cohen, 50 Cent, or David Bowie?An image from Waldman’s portfolio

Waldman: What sets one photographer apart from another one is people skills. When I interact with people I try to make them feel comfortable. I tend to work really quickly, which is a huge advantage over most photographers. That works well with celebrities. They come in and out. It’s a fun environment, it’s not too uptight, and you just try make them feel good. And you try to get on with them as a person. I think to be calm and relaxed is the most important thing. I mean I had a recent situation about 4 months ago in Amsterdam and Prague, shooting a huge campaign for FIFA. We were bringing out this computer game and working with 4 or 5 of the biggest football stars in Europe. These guys are like demigods. There were like 30 or 40 people and TV crews and they were shooting commercials at the same time. As Wayne Rooney arrived the computer just crashed on us. Those are the times where you just keep your cool and find a solution. I think that’s what defines being able to be a successful commercial guy. Just get it done and not be too hysterical and allow people to enjoy being around you

F STOP: Do you have a favorite celebrity that you’ve worked with?

Waldman: I really, really enjoyed working with David Bowie. I thought he was an incredible person, really open. Ben Kingsley came into the studio and was completely and utterly creatively open and introduced himself to everybody and said listen I’m here to do whatever you need to do. He really got into the role of wanting to do some fun work. I think what can make the celebrity thing really difficult are the people around the celebrity. The PR and marketing people tend to generate the hysteria around getting it done. In the Hip-Hop world we would wait for 4 or 5 hours while somebody was in the dressing room and eventually they would come out. You got to just do what you need to do, but it’s difficult sometimes.

F STOP: Ali G has a huge following. Was he in character when you met him?

Waldman: Not initially. He was a great guy. I actually formed a friendship with him. We really got along. When he was working on his film Borat, his manager called me and wanted me to be involved with the stills. I was in South Africa at the time and I’d just had my little boy, so I literally couldn’t do it. But he’s an incredibly smart human being. Initially when you meet him he’s not in character, but he gets into the character so quickly.

F STOP: Do you have a preference between working in the studio and on location?

Waldman: Not really. It’s pretty much the same. Sometimes it’s fun to do one or the other. I worked on a job for RCA Television a year or two ago with a great creative team. It was a fun shoot because we were on a cliff edge and there was a crane and a car and flames and a stunt man. That location was really fun because there was a lot going on.

F STOP: What about doing everything in camera versus doing composite sAn image from Waldman’s portfoliohots? Do you have a preference?

Waldman: You know, not really. If I can do a lot of stuff in camera, I generally try to. It tends to make life a little bit simpler and people can see what they’re dealing with. Sometimes post-production can create huge nightmares in the sense that you have a lot of people trying to make decisions and they don’t really necessarily understand the process. So if you can shoot in camera it just makes it easier. Post-production is a bit of a myth because sometimes when you do a lot of heavily post-produced work, it’s difficult. Then you have a lot of people putting in their two cents and then you end up dragging out an image a lot longer than you need to.

F STOP: Let’s talk a little bit about how you actually became a photographer.

Waldman: I come from a very creative background. My father was a film director, my mother is an art director and my sister is in the performing arts. I had to go into the Marines for two years in South Africa. It was obligatory then, like in Israel. In my second year we were sent out to guard all these different places and I started messing around with a little camera and started enjoying it. About 8 or 9 years ago I started using the camera to express myself.

F STOP: How old were you when you started?

Waldman: I was in my early 20s when I first started experimenting with photography. I traveled a lot to London and was doing a lot of different things. I came to the states about eight years ago and started really focusing on photography.

F STOP: And how did you start off exactly? Nobody starts off doing advertising right off the bat, unless they are extremely lucky.

Waldman: Very few people do. I first started off in editorial working with Vibe Magazine. I started by shooting Hip-Hop photographs for magazines and then eventually got an album cover, and it was kind of history from there. I took off pretty quickly. I was fortunate to have some opportunities and to seize the moment and take it.

F STOP: What made you decide to get into advertising and editorial?

Waldman: I think I will start getting back into editorial periodically. I used to do a lot of editorial work, but I ended up getting a little frustrated with it because I found that one didn’t have enough freedom to really push the work that you want to do. There are some photographers that are very successful who use the editorial world to create a good living, but then that’s real volume. I mean, most photographers want to wok in advertising because ultimately that’s what pays the bills.

F STOP: Is that why you wanted to get into it?An image from Waldman’s portfolio

Waldman: Not only for the money. There is also the ability to have bigger budgets and the opportunity to play with a certain look. If you want to make a living as a freelance photographer, it’s really difficult to do that without advertising unless you’re going to be a stock photographer or editorial photographer.

F STOP: I want to jump back to retouching. You mentioned that you do almost everything yourself. How did you learn those skills?

Waldman: I was always into the digital genre. I had a computer with Photoshop and image manipulation stuff and I just kind of started playing around. I was completely self-taught. I didn’t go to a college or take any courses.

F STOP: Do you have a kind of overarching message or vision that you want the viewer to take away from your images?

Waldman: Definitely. I think it depends on the aesthetic of the work and where the work is coming from. Obviously within the advertising industry you want people to look at your execution and think that it has good production value and that it has a good interesting kind of high quality look to it. On a personal level, it’s about getting an idea and a vision about the world through to people. Commercially, I want people in the business to look at my work and think it is a high quality act. I have great relationships with the team of people that I work with, so it needs to be a smooth and professional experience. When people work with you they want to know that the job will be delivered on deadline and they don’t have to stress about it.