What is photography? Is a portrait an interview series where we talked to as many different people as we could across the photography community. And I sent this question of What is Photography? It’s really a portrait project is what it is. But to gather the best and brightest minds in the photo business at least the ones that were available to come. Kind of create a little community you know with B&H at the center obviously. but at least the organizing factor and ask them this question, get their responses organized that together and then with that we have a general sense of what photography is at this time and place.
what is photography in this time and place
I think a lot of artist working with photography think about this question. I think it’s true also of curators and anybody that’s working in the field. Has asked themselves what is photography? At some point the wonder what we’re doing. You know? So, it’s one of these mediums that’s kind of constantly evolving. Part of this project too was figuring out where it is today and how that relates to the history of photography. We had the idea of a portrait series for us. We wanted to create some kind of visual content. We do a lot of things about photography. So, we wanted to do something that is photography. We thought well,
who would we make portraits of? Who would people want to see portraits of?
As our viewers on Explora for B&H. And we thought of course people in the photography community. The question is important to me personally but also in a broader perspective. Really the project is less about what I think photography is, and more about finding out with other people think it is. Seeing the breath of photographic practice. When people are with you and they see what’s going on, they open up a little bit. And when that happened, usually the end of a portrait session we would say: Hey, anyone else you would recommend for this project? And almost everybody offered 3 or 4 names and we’d reached out to them and if they were available and we felt the work fit and we respected and liked their work, we asked them to be involved. If they agreed, they were in.
It was important for me as the photographer to come up with some sort of uniformity in the aesthetic with what we’re doing. And because we’re shooting over the course of several months of course, 1, the lighting is changing, the people are changing. We wanted to make sure that each portrait sort of reflected the person that we were shooting. So, they’re going to be different portraits. We had told hold something constant in this project. And what we ended up doing in order to keep some semblance of uniformity, is we shot every image in the same location.
We used the Penumbra Foundations Highlight Studios. Which is a natural light studio in Midtown (Manhattan). North-facing light-beautiful light. Gorgeous space to shoot in. We got a backdrop from Oliphant Studios. So, hand-painted backdrop that we shot, and we made sure to include that in every single shot. And we also decided to go with the monochrome palette. So, we took away the color to sort of simplify things and also to keep the images sort of aesthetically unified. There’s the practical sense that we wanted a definition of photography. And of course, there is no one definition.
And people are reluctant to offer something like that, I think. Because first of all, who knows? I mean there’s so many different definitions. You don’t want to get nail down to anyone. We were a little bit worried going in that we might end up getting the same answer over and over again. That was our fear going into this project. But that absolutely wasn’t the case. For me, photography is a way to communicate an idea. Using the space in the time that’s in your surroundings. And that’s kind of what we tried to do with this project. With the participants that we brought in. Photography is a lot of hard work. I think for the sake of this, that would be my answer. Photography is a lot of hard work.
Hasselblad offered to give us their New York experience studio for a pop-up event celebrating this project and what we’re trying to do is bring together as many of the participants as we can. And show this work in physical form. Because of course it will have a digital form. But we wanted to show it as actual photographs too. The seed for this was over the course of the summer we would have three or four people per day come in to do the photo sessions. And we would say: “Yesterday we had so-and-so.” “Or, last week we had so-and-so.” And we felt it would be great to get all the people in the same room.
So let’s have some kind of event at the end to celebrate them to thank the people and why not making exhibit out of it? And when Hasselblad offered this space, we said let’s do it. One of my aims since joining Explora and I think I could say this for John as well working with B&H’s podcast, is expanding our audience in reaching out. And creating content that’s beyond just gear reviews and tutorials. We wanted to engage with the photography community-at-large in a much wider sense then we’ve done in the past. And that was really a motivating force for what we’re doing.
We do a lot of writing about photography and this is not about photography. This IS photography. A lot of great projects started at B&H. I mean even if it’s just been coming in here in buying, you know memory card or whatever happened to be. Let’s remind people that you know that there’s no photo project without a camera. To find out what photography means to these professionals check out the B&H’s Explora page by clicking the link below.