Full understanding of light

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From Publisher: Interview with graphic designer, architecture photographer Kevin Holliday, for whom photography is the most polarizing form of art. Kevin is also one of the admins of Being Published Matter Group on FB, and is very dedicated to supporting other photographers.

Exclusive interview with Kevin Holliday

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you discover photography?

When I was 15 years old, my parents gave me my first camera as a gift. It was a Pentax K1000 that resides in my bookcase at home to this day. This was one of the best cameras to receive because being fully manual it forced me to learn everything about light and how it affects film of different types. In the beginning, it was a tough endeavor with many poor choices on exposure. However, it was later when I finally grasped the Zone System, that many of us are familiar with, where photography as whole finally made sense to me. It was the realization that I can make choices about exposure based on shades of gray and the light meter is just using medium gray as a reference for what it deems to be “proper”. It was the use of this basic camera that encouraged me to learn and make choices based on what “proper” is, and this is something that is inherently missing with beginner photographers in this digital age. Sure… composition, story telling, subject matter and all of that are very important, but without the ability to understand light, one will never truly understand photography. I’m so thankful that I learned basic control of light without the aid of automatic modes found on each of today’s modern cameras.  

What are the most exciting and challenging architecture photography projects you’ve been involved in?

I have two answers here… the first one, and the next one! The “first one” was the challenging portion of the question… This was eons ago back in the days of shooting film and was of an historic clock tower that was my first true attempt at architecture photography. The main reason it was difficult was because I was not aware at the time of the importance of studying the subject under all lighting situations prior to attempting to portray my vision. The results were so disappointing that it nearly led me to put my camera down and walk away…I’m so glad that I didn’t! What I have learned is that there should be no rush when doing this type of work. It’s not like the building is going anywhere, so I learned to study the subject with my own eyes, under varying light, prior to returning with my gear to capture my vision obtained during my scouting.

The “next one” is the exciting portion of the question… This is always the absolute most exciting to photograph because I am consistently learning and honing new skills and techniques. I take what I’ve done in the past and bring it forward to the next. Each and every time I am able to pre-visualize the outcome that much better, and it makes me so happy now that I know what I am capable of producing both upon capture and in post-production. Prior to going on the actual “shoot”, I can barely sleep because I am continuously processing the image over and over again in my head. This, however, is what makes it so exciting! 

How do you promote your own photography to potential clients?

Ah yes, the question of all questions. The answer is simply that I am still trying to figure this out. I have shown in local galleries with some success, however, much of my work has been sold via word-of-mouth so far. I would say that some of the more current steps I am taking are good ones, though. Things such as having success in local and international competitions as well as being active on social media have been absolute key to most of my exposure. One of the best things that has happened, aside from being published with Camerapixo, has been my role as an administrator with Camerapixo’s social media group - Being Published Matters. I have made connections from this group that were quite unexpected, and while they may not be with potential clients they are wonderful connections indeed! 

Please tell us about your “series” and do you have a favorite one?

Let me just start by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with “one-off” images, and I have plenty of them in my portfolio to back that up. However, in the past year or so I have been more focused on producing a series of images rather than just a single capture. I feel that a series is so much stronger overall in that it has a significantly deeper vision, stronger story, and more powerful depiction of the subject matter. 

I’m not just doing this with my architecture work, but let’s use that as an example. When I approach a building for the first time, it speaks to me in ways that others may not “hear". There is just no way I would be able to express my vision with only one image. I like to tell stories about the subject matter in which I am photographing, and when producing a cohesive series I am able to achieve this goal much easier.  

My favorite series thus far is one titled “Geometric Dream” because it really brings out my graphic design background. This is more of an abstract-architecture series that is ALL about the shapes. It’s a simple series of 4 images, but a strong one nonetheless. This is also a good example that an entire building need not be beautiful to obtain beautiful imagery. Let’s just say that aside from these 4 images, the building is really not that photogenic at first glance. One must look deep to find great imagery many times! 

What would your advice be to anyone thinking about taking up architecture photography?

Scout! Then scout again! It is so extremely important to scout the area prior to attempting to portray your vision. You must first obtain what that vision is. Do this WITHOUT your camera gear. If you must capture a few images from different vantage points as a reminder, then do this with your phone. Just go there and study the structure with your own eyes in varying light conditions. How does it speak to you? What was the architect’s vision behind the design? What is it that you want to portray about a particular structure? Many times it may be the very little things that speak more about the subject than trying to encompass the entire structure into one frame. Much of this can be obtained by simply scouting the area.

Then, when you go back with your camera gear (and I urge you to use a tripod, especially for anything requiring symmetry, and of course long-exposure) you will not feel so rushed. You will have already determined the best angles and will not be so hurried to get from one position to the next prior to the light changing. In other words, you will not be attempting to see the area, obtain a vision, find the angles for that vision, and capture the image all in one outing. You simply go to the “X-marks-the-spot” location and capture your image; all the rest has been acquired during your scouting trip (it’s perhaps not quite as easy as that, but you get the idea). If you are traveling and don’t have multiple days to scout, at least spend a solid chunk of time studying the subject prior to setting up to shoot. This motto goes for any subject matter to be honest. 

Photographers have different ways they view photography. What is your philosophy behind what it means to be a photographer?

Photography is the most polarizing form of art I can think of. There are so many different genres here that it would take the whole page to list them out. Basically, pretty much anyone that captures a picture and creates an image is a photographer, but just because I call myself a photographer does not mean that I have the knowledge and ability to shoot weddings or sports. It would be like asking the guy painting the exterior of your house if he could also paint a portrait of your family. Just because he is a painter does not mean he has skills at everything involving paint. I like to consider myself an artist first, and a photographer second. I use my camera merely as a tool to capture light and transport data from the field to the darkroom; that is then where the art takes place. However, to really answer the question… to be a “photographer” means that one MUST have a full understanding of light and how it interacts with the surfaces it’s falling upon. Nothing more, nothing less! Everything else that happens is not being a photographer, but rather being an artist! 

The question we love to ask; your experience with publishing your work in Camerapixo?

Quite simply… fantastic! I feel that the community Anetta and Artur have built, and are continuing to build, is nothing short of amazing. To be amongst some of the absolute best photographers from around our globe really warms my heart. Having my images published alongside my peers in the Camerapixo and Being Published Matters social media group is priceless. I feel that we are in the early stages with this community and I am so thankful to be on board for the ride. A few months ago the Hellers came to me and asked if I would be willing to be an administrator for the aforementioned social media group; I was so honored to know that I had reached a level both with my art and professionalism that I lovingly embraced this roll! Hats off to the Hellers and what they are doing for all of us.  

Where do you find your inspiration?

This is likely THE most difficult question to answer because it is one that I don’t consciously think about. Many things such as great graphic design, music, and visual story telling have strong influences on me. Graphic design sparks my artistic side, while music and visual story telling allow me to begin the process of visualization.  

However, I think the strongest inspiration on my work (and life in general) was my mom’s bravery during her long fight with cancer. Having been touched so deeply by the loss of a loved one to something like this, truly slowed me down and made me take note of the simple things in life that are around me on a daily basis. There is photographic beauty in nearly everything, but it just requires slowing down long enough to fully see it. This is certainly not an inspiration that I wish for others, but it’s one that has been laid in my lap nonetheless.  

What do you love to photograph the most?

Anything that has basic graphical shapes tends to attract me. It’s likely one of the main reasons I love architecture photography so much. When you stop and truly think about what a building is in a two-dimensional space, it is nothing more than rectangles, triangles and ellipses, which are the same three elements that make up basic graphic design. That being said, I enjoy long exposure work with water and sky as well. But even here, I tend to like a much more minimalistic approach to what I am doing. I love negative space and simple leading lines; it just talks to me on a deeper level, I suppose. So basically, I like to photograph buildings and water the most… but preferably not buildings IN water, because that’s called a flood. 

Being a graphic designer helps or rather makes your photography more challenging?

Oh I think that my graphic design background has helped me tremendously as a photographer. So much of graphic design is based around very simple small elements that are then put together in such a way to build more elaborate larger elements. It’s being able to see how these smaller elements in the real world are placed that has simplified my work as a photographer. Prior to spending a great number of years creating graphics, my photography was drastically different. When I was more actively creating graphic design, I did not pick my camera up that often. In fact, when I picked it back up full-time I was surprised by what I was driven to photograph. It amazes me to look back on my work of yesteryear and compare it to how far it has come, all thanks to my focus on graphic design and the absolute simplistic beauty of it. 

Good graphic design creates such a powerful way of seeing things, that I would actually encourage other photographers to take a few classes on the subject. Both art forms are basically doing the same thing but in a different way. Graphic design is taking flat, two-dimensional objects and putting them together to create depth. Photography is taking three-dimensional objects and placing them in a two-dimensional space while maintaining that same depth. It’s just simplifying how we see things, and graphic design has helped me in that regard more than anything else has in the past; not to mention how much it has trained me in regards to being absolutely precise in composition and processing.  

Many photographers are concerned about their style and the content of their work. Are you concerned about delivering new and unique images?

Not at all! It’s all about exploring new things and new techniques, and in this digital age I am thrilled that these techniques appear to be never-ending. I am so encouraged by what I am seeing from others because it truly shows that there are a vast amount of unique styles out there. I hope that my vision will continuously evolve, and I look forward to studying this art form for a lifetime. Cheers! 

Thank you Kevin for taking the time to do this interview.
We are happy to welcome you on board among other photographers.
Your photography is very valuable in this community and very beneficial for our readers.

Camerapixo Team

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