Friday, August 22, 2008

Tim Hailand

MW
What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?


TH
I moved to NYC in 1983 to become a painter. I have made art since I was a little kid, was always making something. Used to take lots of polaroids in the late 80’s, early 90’s. I took a small pocket 35mm camera with me to Miami around 1995 and also a box of letters, there I created my first “word pieces” and it all just clicked (no pun intended) I think in a very visual manner, and a camera helps best facilitate my vision. My imagination is my main motivation – ideas come from everywhere – I’m just a conduit for them. I love photography as it is “real”, while at the same time a complete construction as is any art form.


MW
In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?


TH
I attended art school, and have always been around other creative people. For myself, critical dialogue with smart people is essential to really figuring out what ones work is actually “about”. A strong basis of art/photography history, most importantly an awareness of the work of others that has come before you is very important. Otherwise there is no context for ones work.

That being said, I think one must always follow their own intuition and vision really do what they are inspired to do, photograph what you are most passionate about, and then hope that there is an audience for it – be true to yourself. There are no guarantees or sure way of doing anything – just work hard and manifest your visions through your work.


MW
How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?


TH
I’m not really a “professional photographer”, I’m an artist, I make things that I show in art galleries mainly. I don’t do “commercial” work. I have had to make my work when there seemed to be no audience for it. There are lots of people out there with cameras (especially these days with digital cameras which I never use) Hard work is the only way really, that and always pushing yourself to make better work. Figure out what makes your work special/unique and push in that direction.


Tim Hailand, Andreas Kronthaler in Milano in Berlin, 2008


Tim Hailand, Bernhard Schulte in Kaiserwerth in Rome, 2008


Tim Hailand, Fabrizio in Rome in Paris in Provincetown in London, 2007


Tim Hailand, Fran├žois Sagat in Paris in Las Vegas, 2007


Tim Hailand, Lori Bell in Miami in Berlin, 2008


Tim Hailand, Maciek Mika in Krakow in Berlin, 2007


Tim Hailand, Self Portrait in Pittsburgh in Prague, 2008

© all images Tim Hailand

Friday, August 15, 2008

Andrew Phelps

MW
What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?


AP
I was first attracted to the science of photography. As a teenager I used to love to feel the weight of that big F2 dangling from my hand, strolling the desert, looking for motifs that I had seen before and come to recognize as “good” photographs. If I looked through the viewfinder and saw something that I thought I had seen before, on a calendar, in a magazine, on a poster, then I new it had to be good and worthy of photographing. In contrast to now, I loved talking about f-stops, film speeds and lens focal lengths. Living in the Southwest, the landscape is such a powerful force yet loaded with preconceptions of what it should look like. I was constantly chasing these preconceptions in the summer and photographing wrestling matches for my high-school yearbook during the winter. The satisfaction came from finding the right solution to the problem; making the picture what was “expected.”

It wasn’t until my time at ASU, studying with people like Bill Jay, Bill Jenkins and Tamarra Kaida that everything changed, and in such a monumental way that I still, 16 years on, am content with the struggle of trying to get my mind around what I spend my time doing. I started the photo program so sure of myself because I had all the gear and a nice picture or two to show, but nothing can prepare you for the moment you see the works of Diane Arbus, Walker Evens, Robert Frank and co., and have someone like Bill Jenkins tell you, in one simple sentence, almost as if in passing, that there is a monumental difference between “subject matter” and “content”. If I got nothing out of my studies, or to put it better, if I could break it down to one essential moment, it would be the realization that a photograph is not a documentation of reality, and it is most definitely not about the “thing” in the viewfinder.

So, to answer the question, I was using my camera for years before I was motivated to start taking photographs. I got into it because I liked the safety in knowing that it was pure science – a technical craft that could be controlled and defined by the laws of physics. I have stayed interested because I still can’t tell you why a photograph is successful.


MW
In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?


AP
I think it is very important to spend a lengthy amount of time with a body of work. Just how long is tough to say but I believe each photographer can feel it for themselves. For me it has always been an important step in any body of work to start eliminating photographs. Images that at one time you thought were your strongest. The difference involved with putting together a group of images over time, as opposed to chasing the single interesting photo, is the distance that you gain to the images. Adding the element of time, such as revisiting a series each week for a year or two, adding to the pile and paying attention to how the images relate to one another gives you distance from and insight into your work, and insight into one’s own work is a major challenge for photographers early on in their careers. Photography is constantly becoming quicker and quicker and there is a certain danger in confusing the emotions of making the image for what is actually in front of you later on the print. So often I look through photos that someone has asked me to critique or comment on and I am amazed that some of these people often have little understanding of their own work, and most importantly how to edit their own work. Build on a series long enough to the point that you toss out images that were once essential and you will be getting close to a tightly edited body of work.

In the pursuit of galleries, shows, publications and representation, the most important factor for me has been traveling. I have worked as a curator and member of the Galerie Fotohof for the last 15 years and I can say with absolute certainty that no one has ever gotten a show by walking through the door with a fancy leather portfolio under their arm, nor by sending a CD in the mail. In fact a CD in the mail is maybe the quickest road to the garbage can; too many steps involved to get to the work and there isn’t any work out there that looks good at 72 dpi. Almost everything good I have going for me as far as galleries and publishers is concerned is the direct result of traveling and meeting people. It is the traveling and going to openings and meeting people that lead to the real relationships, and there is so much high-quality work out there that the gallery owners and publishers have to make their decisions based on something other than just good work. Personal connection, in these days of superficial email based communication, is highly respected and valued. I would, and have in the recent past, suggest to younger photographers to take the money they would spend on a portfolio and buy a plane ticket to Paris Photo or Arles or Houston Photo Festival and meet people and find galleries and publishers that you think might be interested in your work. It happens so often that people show me their work and I have to ask them if they know what I do and what I am interested in, both as photographer and curator, because the work is something I can’t begin to offer something in return on, not because it is necessarily bad, but because it’s just so far from what I relate to. This only tells me that they haven’t defined the work for themselves either.


MW
How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?


AP
There must be some great quote to sum up the answer to this question. The only one which comes to mind, but I repeat it with reserve because I never quite got it myself, was from Nathan Lyons, who said, I think, “fame is a cup of warm spit”. Brilliant yet completely useless to me, maybe that’s the message in itself. Success in a field like art photography is so relative. Each of us measures it with a different ruler. For me success is when an image or a body of work come together in a way unlike I had hoped, and when I can step back and say to myself “interesting, but how about trying this…?” and then move on to the next work. The most successful work you will do is the work that leads you to the next body of work. Yes, I have reached a certain level of success, but so much of it is based on my fellow photographers, critics and art directors, and sometimes by those I have admired and been inspired by and their ability to recognize what I do and call it good. How shallow is that? By the time a certain image makes its way into the wider world beyond my studio, I am usually onto the next thing, and so the praise that may come is nice, but seems as valuable as, well, a cup of warm spit. Under the same token, the negative critique also slides off as easily. I value much more the words and thoughts of a handful of close friends than all of the art critics combined.

I am avoiding the actual question because the answer is rather boring, at least my take on it. It sounds so trite, but hard work and persistence will put you in the 98 percentile right away. The other 2% is probably timing. You may be producing a work that is exactly what you need to be doing at the time, but it might not fit into the current themes and trends. It is so easy to see right through a work which is made out of speculation.

Unfortunately, the above mentioned group of friends can’t pay my rent, so I keep up the fight as best I can, which means investing all of my time not spent behind the camera or in the lab to traveling, writing and trying to get my work out there. That may be the toughest part of all, getting the work out there. Whenever I feel tripped up by all of it, I think of the words a collector once told me: “you can’t keep a good work secret”. Success, either financially or in the form of respect from your peers, does make working and moving on to the next work easier, and that is what it is all about; making the next picture.




Andrew Phelps, from HIGLEY, 2007l


Andrew Phelps, from HIGLEY, 2007


Andrew Phelps, from HIGLEY, 2007


Andrew Phelps, from HIGLEY, 2007


Andrew Phelps, from HIGLEY, 2007


Andrew Phelps, from BAGHDAD SUITE, 2008


Andrew Phelps, from NATURE DE-LUXE, 2004

© all images, Andrew Phelps

About this Blog

Two Way Lens is a project designed to inform and inspire emerging photographers wanting to focus their creative output in a way that enhances their chances of finding an audience, being included in exhibitions and ultimately achieving gallery representation. The journey from inspired artist to successful artist is one that is often difficult to negotiate and hard to control. On these pages, I will feature the experiences and opinions of other photographers who I have found inspiring, and hopefully the knowledge they have built in their own experiences will be valuable to all of us finding our own way to sharing our creativity with the wider world.