People, Portrait, Places.
That’s about the order of things for me. I’m drawn to people, to emotions and experience, to connect and capture the world and its people.
I think it’s the people thing that draws me the most. Every photographer, every artist, finds their soul feels most alive, most alert, when it connects, intersects, with that which somehow speaks to it. For some it’s their way of looking back at their life, for others their way of looking forward. I think my inspiration comes from both. The looking back part clearly comes from my Father. For as long as I can remember my father took pictures. For him, it was a way to connect with friends and family. Cameras with bellows, fancy sounding Zeiss lenses, bulb flashes that had the coolest sound when they popped, light meters and film, my first Brownie Hawkeye camera. My father was the one at family events who was always taking the pictures. He was always handing out copies of prints that he’d made for his friends and colleagues. I saw first-hand the love he had for capturing moments, of how his camera enabled him to connect with friends and strangers, and to share those moments with those he cared about. So I guess that love of connecting with people, of sharing moments with others has come naturally to me and…and inspired me to do more. To continue the tradition and to chart my own path forward.
What do I shoot? How Do I shoot? What makes my images different? Well, I shoot what I love. I don’t shoot because I have to; I shoot because I want to. I try to capture the drama of life around us, the emotions of everyday living and to do that, I look for the light. I look for the drama in the light, the hard contrast and the soft edges, the sculpting and dimension of light that wraps, that molds, that shouts and that is subtle and mysterious. And to do this it seems that I mostly shoot in black & white. Don’t get me wrong, I do love color and, I often shoot in color. Our world’s in color. I love the explosion of color, the depth and intensity of color. But, there’s something special about black & white that that speaks to me. That helps me “see”, to feel. My friends joke about this, how I would go to India, a land that almost screams color, and end up shooting so much in black & white. It’s become a standing joke but in the end, the moments, the images, somehow seem more timeless, more magical and dramatic, leading the eye where you, as the photographer want, free of distraction. The image that I feel without even knowing what it actually may be at the time.
Most who know me would say that I’m a people person. That probably explains why I love to shoot people. Portraits. More often than not in some far away place where I don’t speak the language. I don’t need to speak the language. We all connect at some level, we know what fight or flight means. It’s primeval. And so is knowing when it’s ok. When it’s safe. We see it someone’s eyes, in their gesture. I hope people see it in my eyes as I approach them. I prefer shooting outside, natural, environmental. I explore, wander, that’s part of the adventure. Looking for the light, for something elusive, something perhaps around the corner, an open doorway, and some motion that catches my eye, beauty, frailty, something real. A moment, something that makes me want to make time stop. Perhaps it’s something I can identify with, even if I don’t know it. A feeling.
I don’t shoot with a long telephoto – I shoot up close and personal. I want that connection. I’m the guy in someone’s face. It’s personal and the subject knows it. I dance around, like a boxer or a Judoka in the judo ring. I’m observing the light, the face, the comfort and nature of the subject’s demeanor and pose, waiting for the moment when it all comes together. Specular light, rembrandt light, light & shadow, depth and dimension. I need the shadow, the blackness, the mystery and hint of light and then the hard, dramatic contrast of light. And then, in between the shots, I find it. The connection. When the subject finally feels relaxed enough to let me see them, to immortalize their soul in the light that I’ve found.
When I’m in the studio, I try and do the same thing. While most photographers today like the techno wizardry of strobes, beauty dishes and softboxes, I lean towards something much more traditional, more old school – Tungsten Fresnel Lights. Feathered light, dramatic light, specular light, Hollywood light, cinematic light, and contoured light. “What you see is what you get” light. It works for me. And it seems to work for my subjects – making them stand out from the crowd. After all, isn’t that why they wanted to have their picture taken in the first place?
And when I shoot a story, a documentary, I shoot the same. I look for the people, the places, the edges, the light that makes the story something more, something to remember, to go back to time and time again.
Thanks for reading. Hope to connect soon/Allan