“True blue, royal blue, ultramarine: During the Renaissance, these were all names for the most prized of all pigments, lazurite, derived from the semiprecious mineral lapis lazuli. Mined and processed since the sixth century almost exclusively in Afghanistan, and imported to European markets through Venice, it was worth more than five times its weight in gold. It was used sparingly, often reserved for the richest patrons by the most prosperous artists.”
Notes From The Field is a new Q&A series in which students can post questions to an expert related to the craft, language and art of photography.
Our current expert is New York City based photographer David Neff.
Below are the top ten questions from students and photographer David Neff’s candid answers.
- How long have you been making images?
I’ll have to break this down into phases, first real camera acquired was at 16, so that would be 32 years. First photo class at 18, first big time job at 30. I’m now 48.
- How would you describe the type, or style, of photography you produce?
I shoot environmental portrait which tends to be fun happy pictures with bold colors of people. In reality, most of my work is now corporate, people look happy but the fun whacky part has become less of my paid work and remaining is happy people who usually make a whole lot of money. I still have leanings toward silly, bold and conceptual, just less time to do it personally lately.
- How important is understanding composition to your image making process?
Composition was more important when I was learning or working with marker comps or layouts. It has become internalized over the years and now I spend more time looking for a booger gone astray and rely on a part of my brain to do composition without having to take up bandwidth reserved for conversation, balance or temperature regulation.
- Can you describe three top compositional techniques a new photographer must know at the start of his/her career.
Don’t let lines intersect heads, never leave a head in the center of the frame after you focus (I still don’t use autofocus) Once you know what you are doing, make lines intersect heads and put people in the center.
- Are their specific industries that interest you?
I love science and technology. I’m pretty gadget happy and would be as happy taking my strobes apart as lighting with them.
- Do you use social media or other technologies to market your images?
Sure, I have a blog, twitter, Facebook, Ello, Pinterest and Instagram. I should use them, maybe this will prompt me to do it.
- How do you find new potential business prospects?
I have one of those phone numbers that people accidentally call on occasion when they mean to call someone else. If someone calls asking for Richard Avedon, I just say hello, how can I help you. Aside from that, I used to drop off portfolios, send out promos, blog, e-blast and call people. Stuff that I might start doing again in the fall.
- What steps do you take to cultivate ongoing professional relationships?
I smile at people, do good work and occasionally send out an email saying hello.
- What inspires you to create?
Lately, the most inspiring thing I photograph is my son, nothing makes you see things differently than trying to understand a child.
- Do you work on personal projects? If yes, how much time do you work on it before you feel it is complete? If no, why?
I have several projects on the bench, lately I have been dabbling in electronics. Sure, it’s nice to eat, live, sleep and $h*t your work but eventually if you don’t dabble somewhere else, there is a good chance you’ll get bored. This fall though I have two new projects I’m hoping to start shooting though I’m thinking I’ll be doing some writing first so I have some backbone for the two series and they don’t just end up another pile of pictures loosely related. When is it complete? Likely never, but then some concepts expire as well unless you keep them beefy over generational changes. It’s better to have chapters than a sequel.
Can you copyright an idea? No.
According to a government website on copyright law, “Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.”
Look at the two images below, one was created in 2012 and the other in 2014. What are your thoughts on artists or photographers who appropriate / reinvent the work / ideas of others?
“Vancouver-based photographer Martin Szabo has a fun photo series where people’s faces are amusingly distorted.
Titled ‘Be Blown Away!’, the shots were captured as individuals’ faces were treated to a spontaneous, full-on blast of wind at 240mph from a leaf blower.
Take a peek at how it’s done below and check out more photos here.
Food for thought…
- Copy or Borrow From Other Artists? How Far Can You Go? – Article from ArtBusiness.com
- What Steve Jobs really meant when he said ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal’ – Article from CNET.com
- Appropriation and Authorship in Contemporary Art – Author Professor Sherri Irvin
- MoMA – Art & Appropriation
- Makers & Takers: Art and the Appropriation of Ideas
Below is one example from the story.