What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?
I started taking photographs when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I was into sports , mostly football, but I looked at the magazine Sports Illustrated quite a bit. I was a big fan of one of their staff photographers, Neil Leifer. He was like a super star to me. So when I first got a camera, mail order, it was this East European 35mm model with no light meter. I would spend hours out in front of my house photographing cars , as they flew down the street. There was something magical about the whole process , freezing objects, stopping time. I then did the whole high school newspaper , sports photographer thing and after I finished school, I got the chance to work in the National Football League. It was a great opportunity, but it only lasted a year and a half , when I lost my job to nepotism.
I decided to attend college, this was 1979, so I went to a small liberal arts college , North of Boston. While there, I befriended two kids from Memphis, TN. One of these kids , one day shows up in my dorm room with a copy of William Eggleston's Guide book. It turns out her dad was one of Bill's benefactors, helping to fund his career. I looked at this book and although I could not completely grasp its complexity or originality, I realized photography had the potential to be very personal and it did not have to function as journalism or "news".
On Spring break, we traveled to Memphis and I had a chance to spend time with Eggleston. This encounter was like a fork in the road and I pretty much abandoned photography as journalism. I know this is a long answer but its my answer! Photography for me now is an obsession, it is how I look at and react to the world.
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?
I think that a lot of young photographers are way too aggressive now in getting out there and showing ,often , immature work. In one sense, the internet has made this all too easy. I would like to see young photographers make more than one body of work , that is well thought out and executed, before jumping in the fray. The single best thing a photographer can do is to attend photo festivals , like Fotofest in Houston. These types of events are popping up all over the world now, so you don't necessarily have to travel far to have work seen and evaluated by a visually literate audience. I attend Fotofest about 15 years ago and made some great contacts. These folks will provide a great litmus test as to whether the work is refined and original enough to exhibit.
How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?
When I finally felt like I had something to show and say with my work, I went straight to the lion's den, that for me was the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At that time, you could just drop a portfolio off on Tuesday, if there was no interest , you just picked it up on Wednesday. So I was prepared for rejection, but what ended up happening was MOMA and specifically John Szarkowski liked the work. Szarkowski chose three images from a series and purchased them for the MOMA permanent collection. The work was included in a recent acquisitions show not long after that, so this was a great boost.
At that time, it was also fairly easy to make an appointment in a given city to show a photography curator work. Everywhere I went, I made it a point to visit curators and I was able to place my work in a lot of museum collections. I think that doing this is not so easy anymore? There is lots of competition and there are gate keepers at all these institutions.
Dub Arena LSU, Baton Rouge LA 2007, from the series Baton Rouge Blues
Baton Rouge Bayou, 12/2007, from the series Bayou's Edge
Mall of Louisiana, Baton Rouge LA 3/2008, from the series Bayou's Edge
Sugar & Spice, Baton Rouge, LA 11/2007, from the series Baton Rouge Blues
Elderly Couple at Dock, New York NY 10/2007, from the series Cruise
Security Guard, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans 2006, from the series 8 Days in Spring - New Orleans Jazzfest
Pink Trailer, Metairie, LA 2005, from the series Fallen Paradise
Blue Pipe and Rebar, Metairie, LA 2000, from the series Fallen Paradise
© all images William Greiner
Monday, November 10, 2008
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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.