The Showcase: Christoph Morlinghaus

Posted on: April 30th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Christoph Morlinghaus to answer a few questions about his series of studies on religious architecture. 

Where did you get the idea for this project Form/Faith? 

The idea to shoot a project based on mid century ecclesiastical architecture came about as a result of photographing the TWA terminal at JFK in 2002. TWA’s  architect was Eero Saarinen. I thought that the resulting images from that shoot had a very ecclesiastical, cathedral-like character. After digging deeper into Saarinens work, I found that he as well as his father, Eliel Saarinen, had built places of worship. Researching further resulted in a list of iconic 20th century modernist architects that had built churches, temples, synagogues and cathedrals.

Christoph Morlinghaus #1

What appeals to you about these religious structures? 

The way the materials ( concrete, glass and metal), combined with the use of light as an additional dimension were used to achieve a sense of space and spiritual experience without all the usual decorative frills and bombast seen in most conventional places. In addition I find it is incredible to experience the effort that goes into places that were built just for the purpose of worship. Easy access was another advantage.

Christoph Morlinghaus #2

How did you find and then get access to these places of worship? 

Internet research helped me find most of the places. Then my producer and I began emailing and calling them. There wasn’t anyone that wasn’t extremely open, enthusiastic and inviting. If a place wasn’t open, I just called a day in advance and somebody gave me access.

Christoph Morlinghaus #3

What do you want people to take away from these images? 

When I make photographs, I do not think about what peoples reactions will be or how the final image will be perceived, this is not important to me. What I do not want people to take away from these particular images is some sort of religious message or confirmation of their belief. Also, all images from that series are for sale and it would be great if people continue to buy the prints.

Christoph Morlinghaus #4

Your imagery always seems to explore one type of place at a time like airports, roller coasters, etc. what makes you choose one of these places…is it just the aesthetics or is there something else that attracts you? 

Of course aesthetics plays a major role. Also I am often drawn to places that would normally be populated but are presently unpopulated. Places of historical significance also interest me.

Christoph Morlinghaus #5

The Showcase: Brad Moore

Posted on: April 22nd, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Brad Moore to answer a few questions about his clever and elegant observational images of the California landscape.

Please describe what your work is about.

About three years ago, I started driving around in some of the areas where I had grown up, worked and gone to school (mostly North Orange County, California). The areas I remembered were fading away, and I was struck by the simultaneous growth and decline. At first, it was the buildings that interested me; I shot them in formal, almost symmetrical compositions. Then I began shooting the surrounding shrubbery with the same architectural approach. The buildings and shrubs seemed to work together, and that’s how the project evolved. To me, the images have a sense of sadness and isolation, but at the same time a quiet sense of humor; I like the conflicting feelings.

Brad Moore image #2

How do you find the locations in your imagery? Is it serendipitous or is there a more structured approach?

It’s a lot of random driving around, I usually just happen upon things. I started by revisiting areas from my past, but now I see things all over. It’s really about seeing something where there seems to be nothing.

Brad Moore image #1

Do you use Photoshop to enhance the images in any way?

I use Photoshop as a darkroom replacement. I dodge and burn, color correct, and do general image clean up. I do not construct an image in Photoshop. For me, it’s about finding something and capturing it, then preserving the way I felt about it at the time of exposure. I don’t really like post production that much, so I try to do as much as possible in the camera. I use Photoshop as tool for enhancement and, ultimately, making the image as strong as it can be.

Brad Moore image #3

I’d imagine you spend a lot of time scouting and shooting images that don’t make it to the gallery wall, about how much time does it take you to create one image that makes the cut?

I don’t really know, but to guess I would say it takes a week or two to make a single image. I probably spend as much time printing as shooting. I shoot pretty deliberately, so I’m far more likely to return home without shooting anything than with hundreds of images that get edited out. This might be different if I was shooting something else, like people. I shoot primarily on overcast days; in Southern California this means there are very few shooting days in a year.

Brad Moore image #4

You seem to be exclusively a fine-art photographer, how has the market for your prints changed since the recession began?

Last year was the best year I’ve had selling prints, but the gallery that sold most of my work closed this year, so that’s had an effect. Now might be a better time to create new work than to sell it. I’m optimistic.

Brad Moore image #5

Photography in the Age of the Internet

Posted on: April 13th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I’m thrilled that Jay Colton, former Special Projects Photo Editor of TIME Magazine and Photo Editor of TIME.com, accepted our invitation to write a piece especially for The F STOP blog about the future of photography and how photographers can weather the storm. Thank you Gabriela Herman for getting in touch with Jay for this piece.

By Jay Colton

Ok let’s face it the paradigm has shifted and we are in a new reality. The way we gather and process information is not only changing it has changed. The first half of the 20th century was the age of magazines and radio, the middle of the century (and arguably continuing today) is the age of television. In the short few 15 or so years the Internet has changed everything, even the way we view television. As photographers almost everyone uses digital cameras (something that even 10 years ago was unthinkable) and the way we process visual information has changed. The pixel is the paradigm and the processor governs the way we produce images. The twenty first Century is the age of the Internet; though even saying it seems hackneyed and trite now, because everyone recognizes it. The amazing thing, however, is no one (very few really) have really understood how to make it work commercially. Newspapers, because they cannot adapt, have been dying like dinosaurs in the cometary aftermath. Magazines struggle to stay afloat, and the habits of the world are changing. No one reads anymore; they browse and the real estate photography counted on for impact is reduced to a 640×480 box. So what is happening to photography? We need to understand the context, the environment that is shaping the evolution of photography to gain insight into the question.

The half-life of news -yesterdays cold potatoes.

News is, and has always been a commodity. Financial news still has, an outside the internet box, value as except for real time quotes, it’s inside baseball and strategy. But for the rest of the news the paradigm has certainly shifted. It shifted from the age of magazines to television and now on every phone, you can get the latest updates on everything from Iraq to American Idol. The news is now “pushed” and tailored to each customer’s wants and needs. But more on the failure of Newspapers and magazines to adapt to the new landscape later. Right now I want to talk to the king and as every businessman knows the customer is king. Ah yes the almighty customer.

If they get the milk free, why would they buy the cow?

We must remember to know our market, since nobody really reads the news anymore (and since they can get it free from so many sources) what do you have to offer? The newspaper as we know it is disappearing like the dodo (more on what might still happen in that marketplace later, and how they missed the opportunity/dropped the ball).  We are what we eat, and primarily we are a fast food nation (sure there are gourmet goods on demand and some part of the net services them too).  Everything has quickened. The pace has accelerated for everything we consume.  In the new reality, ads don’t offer the critical support they used to; this is due primarily to the fact that advertising, too, is going through a catharsis. Ads, although flirting with the web, have not fully comprehended the way to channel its power. Smart ads and track-able (meaning ads that lead directly to purchase) ads are still in their infancy, and the industry is enthralled with viral marketing and the idea that trendsetters (a few special people) govern the fashions of the times. Personally I think both of the latter two ideas have salient points but are over weighted in the understanding of the market. Getting back to the point, however, if advertising is sorting itself out, where is the revenue stream? Sure the few stars of our art and commerce will still make a good living but for the rest of us; we will need to think differently. It is here I would like to introduce some new fundamentals at work in the marketplace. (click link below to continue reading)

(more…)

The Showcase: Matthew Porter

Posted on: April 9th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Matthew Porter to answer a few questions about his clever series of flying car images. Thank you Gabriela Herman for curating this week’s feature.

Tell us about your flying car series, what was the intent behind this project?

I wanted to photograph late 60s, early 70s Muscle Cars. The trick was to treat them as fetish objects, without getting too bogged down in a documentary project. On one level these cars are a lot of fun—they provide gleeful interludes and shiny distractions from boring and derivative plot lines. On another level they carry some negative baggage—they use too much gas, go dangerously fast, and are often owned by people with different political sentiments than mine. Hollywood allows them to be fun and bold again, and hopefully so do these images.

Flying car series

What was your inspiration?

The way a car can steal the show—think of the iconic car chase in Bullitt. I think I’d been traveling around to car shows and hitting up strangers for posed pictures, making a lot of photographs that we’ve all seen a million times, then a string of shiny movies with muscle cars in them came out. I thought, this is what I want, cars in the air with lens flairs splashing over their hoods. Also, I’m interested in things at their developmental peak, just before they become dead end technology.

Flying car series

How did you create these images?

Model cars on a string, shot in a studio. Photoshop. I photographed everything with a 4×5. The backgrounds are San Francisco and Maine.

Flying car series

How have people responded to these images?
It’s hard to say. I think at this point in my career negative responses manifest in silence, so I just hear nothing. There have been some positives—I’m able to exhibit work a little more, and I’ve started working with some galleries. I’m basically a starving artist and I keep hoping that I can get more editorial and commercial work. Attitudes have changed however, and I’ve noticed more reluctance in the past few years to take chances with assignments. What I mean by that is that now I’m the photographer that takes pictures of cars, so I don’t get hired to take portraits.

An image from Porter’s new series

Are you working on any new projects you’d like to mention?

I’ve been working on a project that involves cowboys and the Hindenburg. The work is on view right now at the Marty Walker Gallery in Dallas, and I’m working on producing more for a show this fall at M+B in LA.

James Day

Posted on: April 1st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Written by T.K. Dalton
Edited by Jesi Khadivi
Diagram by Brandon Jones

Featured image for XXXX Extra ColdThough he now has a mantle full of trophies and a stable full of prestigious clients, James Day suffered a rocky start as a freelancer. “I took out a bank loan and set up a studio,” he says, “and didn’t get a single job for about twelve months.” The loan was, however, a very good investment. Day now shoots for clients as varied as Canon, Heineken, Motorola, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Tropicana, and Volkswagen, and his portfolio has earned him awards from Communication Arts, Cannes, The One Show, PDN, AOP and others.

Despite the impressive depth and breadth of his portfolio, Day expresses singular pride for one shot in particular: the portrait that won him the John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award in 2002. The piece landed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. “…it was the first set of portraits that I’d ever shot,” he said. That sensibility as a skilled portraitist translates across subjects. In our featured image, he combines his vision as a portraitist and his technical skills to capture an unlikely (and unruly) subject: a koala bear whose custom-made parka was just one challenge in the productioOverhead view of lightingn. “Koalas are quite docile until you have to pick them up and then they go absolutely berserk. We didn’t have to put any stuff on, but we had two handlers in the room,” Day recalled. “They were wearing protective clothing. Big, thick outfits like meat packers. The head keeper told me that someone had once lost a finger.”

Day has a unique approach to lighting his portrait subjects “I tend to light the people like they’re a still life. It’s quite a formal and static form of portraiture,” he says. For our featured image Day decided that because photographing unruly koalas was so difficult he had to shoot four separate images (the koala, the background, the sky and the furry parka) and composite them all together in post. The closest place they could find a koala was in a Lisbon zoo and the lighting was quite simple for that shot, just a bare Profoto head with some half weight spun diffusion plugged into the Profoto 7B pack. He shot the koala using a Hasselblad V system camera with a phase P25 back and a 150mm lens positioned approximately 3 feet from the koala. Day then had a custom-made parka created for the koala (they have relatively small heads) and shot it using three Elinchrom 3000 heads and a Linhoff 679 view camera with a Phase P25 back (see accompanying diagram for more details). He then gave those images and the two photos of the sky and dirt to his post-production specialists at Core Digital to be assembled into a seamless final image.

Day’s love of shooting still life drives his personal work and shapes his approach to portraiture. “I quite like putting a camera right, literally six, seven inches from people’s faces. And I like the slightly intrusive feel, which I think comes across in some of the images that look a bit—not intimidated—but slightly uncomfortable,” he says. This lends a certain realism that is missing from the mass of commercial photography of professional models posing for the camera.

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

F STOP: Why were you hired to photograph our featured image?

Day: The ad agency was attracted to my technique and the almost hyper-realism of my work.

F STOP: Were you bidding against other photographers?

Day: No, you get less of that in London. With the current economic climate triple-bids have become more common, but quite often people will come to you with layouts. Triple bids are not as common in the UK as in the United States.An image from Day’s portfolio

F STOP: How did you approach creating the image?

Day: I thought the best way to make the image look believable was to use real animals. The client wanted a blue sky, which I couldn’t guarantee in London in March. We found a koala in Lisbon, Portugal. They allowed us to be in the cage with them and get right up close. We then found a shooting location in Southern Spain. After we took some test shots of the parka, a fashion designer made it to the size of the koala. So, first we shot the koala and went to Spain. Then we came back to the studio in London and took the main shot of the jacket.

F STOP: So was the koala easy to shoot?

Day: At the Lisbon zoo, I climbed up one ladder and my assistant went up another to hold the light. I was about three feet away from the koala, but it kept running away. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to explain to the keeper, but he didn’t speak English, so I ended up speaking with the head [keeper] in passable French. I was starting to panic because, after about three or four hours, I was worried about getting the shot. The keeper brought a scale with a eucalyptus branch on the other side and was able to get a koala to sit absolutely still on it. We were able to just shoot away for twenty minutes, and got the shot.

F STOP: Did you have to wear any protection?

Day: Koalas are quite docile until you have to pick them up and then they go absolutely berserk. We didn’t have to put any stuff on, but we had two handlers in the room to make sure we didn’t get too close. They were wearing protective clothing. Big, thick outfits like meat packers. The head keeper told me that someone had once lost a finger.

F STOP: How did you become interested in photography?

Day: I just started assisting. I didn’t go to college or have any formal training.

F STOP: Why did you start assisting?

Day: I started working because I didn’t want to go to college. I worked in corporate finance for about a month and a half. And I just thought, ‘I do not want to do this for the rest of my life.’ I’d always been interested in photography, but no one ever explained that it could be a career.’ It had never really been explained to me or proposed as an option. I began assisting for a photographer  for about three and a half years, who  I was put in touch with by a friend’s parents who owned a design consultancy.  I totally fell in love with it. I was in there every weekend doing test shots and trying to shoot as much as possible. And I really, really enjoyed it, and it was quite a shock—both to me and my parents.An image from Day’s portfolio

F STOP: That’s interesting. So you started assisting more as just a job, as something to do and you end up falling in love with photography?

Day: I was seventeen and a half and I thought it seemed like quite a cool job. It’s been my obsession ever since.

F STOP: How old are you now?

Day: I’m 37.

F STOP: When did you stop assisting?

Day: I sent letters out to the top advertising photographers.  One of them called me in for an interview because his first assistant was leaving. I freelanced for him for a couple of months and then he offered me the job. I worked with him for about three years and once I was about twenty-four or twenty-five and I thought I had a fantastic portfolio so I went out on my own. Unfortunately the portfolio wasn’t quite as great as I thought and I took out a bank loan and set up a studio and didn’t get a single job for about twelve months. Eventually, I got an agent and started to get bits and pieces and started shooting and it just kind of built up from there.

F STOP: You shoot a lot of portraits and still life. What kind of a photographer do you consider yourself?

Day: I like to think that I’ve got more of a look and a feel—a sort of graphic hard light that I carry through the still life and the portraiture and the cars and stuff. But I suppose I probably would say I’m a still life photographer.

F STOP: Do you treat your portraiture subjects any differently than still life?

Day: I think because of my still life background, I tend to light people like they’re a still life. It’s quite a formal and static form of portraiture.

F STOP: How do they take to that?

Day: They’re alright. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming when the lights are really close. I quite like putting a camera like, literally six, seven inches from people’s faces. And I like the slightly intrusive feel, which I think comes across in some of the images that look a bit—not intimidated—but slightly uncomfortable.

F STOP: Why do you like it?An image from Day’s portfolio

Day: I always liked formal portraiture. My all-time hero was Irving Penn. He’s succeeded with both still life and portraiture.

F STOP: Why do you like your subjects to be outside of their comfort zone?

Day: I think by the nature of taking someone’s portrait that they are in a sort of slightly odd environment in the first place and many of my subjects are not professional models. When I shoot fashion models they have a kind of look and feel and they really like to do their thing in front of the camera. That can really work, if that’s what you’re after. But I prefer something a bit more realistic.

F STOP: Why did you settle on shooting still life?

Day: Partly because I trained with still life guys. With still life it’s all about the lighting. I quite like that you start in a room that’s completely black. I like to control what I’m doing.

F STOP: Tell me about the process of shooting a typical still life. Do you know exactly what the lighting is going to be or do you play around?

Day: Strong shadows are featured in my work, especially if I’m shooting advertising. But I don’t like to just turn out the same thing over and over again. So I tend to start with a hard key light and see how it interacts with the subject matter depending on what background we’re shooting against, the kind of look and feel that they’re after. I let the shoot evolve from there. You’re very much governed by what you are shooting and how it reacts to light. It has a big bearing on how hard I can use the lighting. Sometimes what I do is I’ll light the objects to get them looking how I want them and disregard everything else. And then I’ll light the shadow for the object and that balances out how interesting that is as a separate element. And then I’ll shoot the background separately and then comp all of them together. So I think quite a lot of my work is interesting because it looks like it could be all done in one image but when you look at it you think ‘well actually, that shadow shouldn’t be there and the highlights in that bit wouldn’t react like that it real life.’ But you don’t really question it when you look at it, you just think, ‘well that’s quite a striking image.’ I’ve definitely embraced the computer.

An image from Day’s portfolioF STOP: Do you do all of your own post?

Day: No, I work with a fantastic set of guys called Core Digital in London. They’ve done all of my personal work and probably 90 percent of my advertising work for the last ten years. It’s quite good to have that sort of relationship where you can kind of work on the style and the look together and it’s sort of evolved over the years to where we are at the moment. And we constantly want to move it forward. So I have a whole raft of personal work that I’m trying to do at the moment where we are trying to take it on to the next level and just change the colors and the general look and feel, slightly, nothing too drastic.

F STOP: Is any of the still life work on the website personal work?

Day: All of it is personal work.

F STOP: Tell me about the ketchup and berry images. Maybe I’m wrong here, but it looks like it’s cut out and put up against a computer generated background, like a single color background.

Day: Yeah, that’s basically exactly what it is, just shooting the object. I used to do a lot of that sort of stuff. I think those sauce bottle shots are probably five or six years old. It was quite new when I was doing it. But I think a lot of people started doing it since, so I’ve tried to move away from it a little bit. It’s got a graphic, kind of pop arty sort of feel. I use a slightly more naturalistic looking background these days. I shot the berries last year, I wanted to achieve a three-dimensional object that had a bit of depth to it, but then suddenly make it feel almost flattened out. We shot the berries and then we cut perfectly around it and then filled it in with black and then just slid it down, so it’s like a perfect shadow. And then you put the background in, so it sort of flattens. You know there is depth to the shot but it’s slightly off because then it’s grounded by this shadow that shouldn’t really be there.

F STOP: What do you see as new photographic trends?

Day: A slightly less post-productiony feel. I mean that’s what I’m trying to do now. I keep the sharpness and character of the images, but I feel like there is slightly less feel of the computer.

F STOP: So a lot of the still life is personal work. Is that work that you just have up on your website or do you show it in another context, in galleries?

Day: My portfolio is mostly personal work and there are a few small strips of ad campaigns at the back. I prefer for people to see my personal work and they like that. I send regular mailers and we do email promotional and stuff like that. Personal work is really important because it’s how you keep pushing forward.An image from Day’s portfolio

F STOP: Do you exhibit your personal work in galleries at all?

Day: I haven’t. I’m definitely interested in doing it in the future.

F STOP: You’ve won several different types of awards from different magazines and award shows. I’m curious to know if you’ve noticed that one in particular has been particularly valuable in projecting your career to a new level?

Day: The one that was always very important, being based in London, was the Association of Photographers Awards. It’s not like suddenly you get loads of other work, but when you first start getting them but you definitely start to pop up onto people’s radar. People look at them, places like Communication Arts and PDN, in the photographic community. But I think it’s a combination of getting the right representation and then once you start getting the awards I think it’s good to keep winning them. Every time you get into the book it’s just a little reminder that ‘hey he’s out here, he’s trying to do something new or interesting.’ It just keeps your name floating around in this arena of commissioners. But I wouldn’t say that there has been any single one that suddenly put me on the map. It’s been more in the advertising community with certain campaigns that I’ve done. The advertising awards, at least for commissioning, have been more beneficial. The most satisfying one for me was winning the John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award in 2002. My work was up in the National Portrait Gallery in London and there was a big sort of gallery launch of the body of work that year. So for me, that was proper, worthy photography. And also it was the first set of portraits that I’d ever shot.

F STOP: Oh wow, well that’s quite the encouragement to do more portraiture right?

Day: Yeah, it was. That was probably the best one, but then it probably had the least impact on my career in terms of commissions and stuff like that.

F STOP: Did you have the opportunity to contribute your own visual ideas to the imagery often?An image from Day’s portfolio

Day: Yeah definitely. Obviously, if they’re talking to me then they like the style of my work. It’s a collaborative thing. I think great art directors are the ones that you do collaborate with. I would never want to be one of those photographers who says,  ‘this is how we’re going to do it and if you don’t do it like that I’m not going to shot your ad campaign.’  I think that it should be a collaboration and I think that both of you bring interesting ideas to the party. Conversely, I’d hope that if people were commissioning me, hopefully we can let it grow together. You can usually tell when you have a first meeting whether it’s going to be like that or not. Mostly it is. I think I’ve been very lucky with the people I’ve worked with over the years.

F STOP: When a client approaches you about doing a commission, do you have to agree with the idea behind it in order to accept the job?

Day: You have to be sort of pragmatic. I work in a very commercial environment with advertising and not every campaign that you shoot is going to win Cleos and Gold Lions. The good campaigns are the ones that actually consider the photographer, that have a great idea and then they want to use a good photographer who can really bring that to life. I think that’s where you try and position yourself in the market. I try to work with good reps who get my work in front of the sort of people who are making the interesting work, so mostly I’ve been very lucky. Hopefully I have enhanced the original idea with some great imagery as well.

To see more of James Day’s work visit his website.

Tilt. Shift. Go!

Posted on: April 1st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

The tilt-shift miniaturizing effect that has gained popularity in recent years has made the jump to motion picture. Sydney based photographer Keith Loutit has combined the tilt-shift effect with time-lapse photography to create some fascinating short films like the one below shot on Mardi Gras. Check out his vimeo page to see a bunch of other really fun films.

For those of you who are curious about how to create your own miniature effects using the computer (you can also buy special lenses) check out this tutorial on TiltShiftPhotography.net

Thanks to James Bilodeau for the link.