1. Who or what influenced you to get into photography?
I sort of “fell” into becoming a photographer. As a young child I had always had an affinity towards art. It started with a high interest in comic books. I would read them voraciously and eventually wanted to “create” my own. Re-drawing comic book figures sparked a serious interest in art and my parents, fortunately, recognized that there was a talent and focus, something I lacked in almost every other area of my young life, so I enrolled in art classes. I took every art class that was offered by the public school systems starting at age 12; drawing, water color, photojournalism, sculpture, etc finally settling on oil paints as my preferred medium. While attending college I accepted a job offer to work at a photography studio. It seemed a natural fit to be able to find a job that utilized some of the art training I had amassed. Eventually photography became my obsession and I rarely pick up my paint brushes today.
2. Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
I actually get my inspiration from all over the place. I find I have an appreciation for really raw talent that comes from our youthful photographers. Those unknown young photographers who are crushing it on flickr and all over the web keep me inspired and hopeful for the future of photography and art. I also find creative inspiration from some of the older veterans who’ve successfully made the transition beyond merely switching from film to digital. The ones who’ve embraced the digital explosion and are using online social media; blogs, twitter, podcasts, etc to give themselves a new, and often, more successful career path. Brooks Jensen (http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/) of Lenswork Magazine is at the top of my list. He blogs, podcasts, prints, runs a magazine, and somehow still finds time to work on his craft.
3. What type of camera do you use most and do you prefer digital or film cameras?
I use a Canon 30D the most. It’s not the newest, and certainly not one of the best digital cameras that Canon put out, but it gets the job done and I’ll probably continue to use it until it fails. I do still have my first camera, a Chinon from the mid 70s that was handed down from my father, and I still use it from time to time as well. It’s what I started out using in high school for my photojournalism classes. I also have my father’s Polaroid SX-70 and will be exploring that with the new films from the IMPOSSIBLE project (http://www.the-impossible-project.com/). I use digital mostly, out of convenience and workflow, but have a very fond love of film photography.
4. What is your next planned equipment purchase?
I currently have my sights set on the new crop of micro four thirds cameras. I’m intrigued with the smaller form factor and they seem to produce image files that are impressive. I also am in need of a good film scanner. The Epson V600 is probably going to be my next purchase. This goes back to my love of film photography of course.
5. What do you see as the next evolution in digital photography in terms of trends and new products?
I think we will continue to see technology improve the low-light performance in digital cameras. Thank goodness we’ve gotten away from the megapixel race! I see many photographers, especially in photojournalism and wedding photography, really starting to embrace the incorporation of video technologies into their workflow. I think we’ll see a new crop of cameras that will have dual sensors, or something similar, that will produce extremely large and crisp images.
6. Could you share a favorite recent image you took and tell us a little about it?
This photograph is part of a new series I’m working on that explores the idea that photography, as a tool of abstract art, can entice the viewer to focus outside of the perceived subject in the photo. Photography is seen, so often, as a true or manipulated representation, fact/fiction if you will, that the story is forced upon the viewer. I like art that has feeling. I like art that makes you think. It was captured using my Canon 30D with a Lensbaby Composer. I’m fond of the Lensbaby lenses because they feel analog to me and when coupled with filters that mimic film I’m able to work with current technology while paying homage to my studies of the past.
7. What are you favorite websites or blogs that you frequent?
There are too many to list! I have RSS subscriptions to hundreds of photo centric blogs. Some are tutorials and tips blogs, some are art photography blogs, some are showcase blogs. A good place to start would be to look at the blogroll at the Your Photo Tips website (http://yourphototips.com).
Here are some of my favorites as of late.
I already mentioned Lenswork (http://www.lenswork.com/) as one of my top websites. I cannot recommend this enough for artists working as photographers.
I’m really into burn magazine (http://www.burnmagazine.org/) as well. It’s a web journal that showcases emerging photographers and is curated by Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey. Tons of fantastic and raw photography from up-and-coming greats.
There’s a great blog called Ciao, Chessa! (http://www.ciaochessa.com/) ran by a New York photographer Monica Shulman that I am rather fond of. She frequently finds great photographers and photography to showcase. Great writing and photographic style and she’s active in online social media.
Another website I visit almost daily for inspiration is feature shoot (http://www.featureshoot.com/). Tons of great photography from up-and-coming as well as established photographers. Curated by Alison Zavos.
Of course because much of the work I do is represented online I listen to the New Media Photographer podcast (http://www.newmediaphotographer.com/) to keep up with trends in utilizing the tools needed to stay current with online technologies.
8. Any advice or tips for someone wanting to become a photographer or to improve their photography?
I think improving as a photographer is a multifaceted endeavor. You have to learn all of the techniques to properly use your camera. You have to look at great photography that you can emulate, reverse engineer, and/or gain inspiration or ideas from. I also think photographers would do well to explore areas of art, design, and concept that isn’t in the medium of photography. Go to galleries, museums, open studios as well as all of the great places online. Take pictures everyday. Start small projects. Start big projects. Talk to other photographers online via social networks. Take another photographer out for coffee or lunch and talk about photography. There’s so much you can do. It’s mostly centered around doing something “photo centric” everyday.
Damien Franco works as a contemporary fine art photographer in West Texas and writes photography tips articles when he’s not fighting tumble weeds, cactus, and oil tycoons.