Derek and his wife Anna moved to Chicago last year and I got to talking to them via Twitter and have since hung out with them around the city. Derek photographed me in my studio last month and we had some great discussions about what art means to us and it actually helped me get out of a bit of a artist block that I was having. I had the pleasure of doing this interview with him and getting some more insight in to his work, enjoy!
What drew you to photography
and specifically, what drew you to portraiture?
I was drawn to photography because my wife has always had a camera and for a long time. I would try explaining what I felt would make a good picture but I got tired of using words and decided to just do it myself. My dad was also a photographer who occasionally did weddings, sports, wild life, landscapes, etc. so I was sort of always around it. The more I did it, the more I realized how perfect of a fit it was for me. I even gave up playing music to focus on making pictures.
I think I was drawn to portraiture because when I was really young I would draw people, faces mainly. I think it's how I connect with people. It may sound cliche but the face and a portrait can depict a lot. It is also what feel most comfortable doing. I enjoy people and making connections. If someone is willing to sit with me and let me take their photo, then I will put the effort into getting to know them.
Your subjects seemed somewhat
posed but still casual. Do you direct a person you’re photographing or just let
the image create it’s self?
I do direct but not in a "You stand here and give me (insert emotion here)." That just isn't natural. A portrait should be a depiction of that person. I try to have as casual of environment as possible. Light conversation and having a genuine interest in my subject goes a long way. People care that you want to know about them. So, I talk and I listen and I wait for a moment where everything from their glance to their smirk and their body position align perfectly and then I take the picture.
Depending on your answer
above, how do you feel this effects the overall outcome of the image?
I feel that my interaction aides in the final outcome of the image. I have had a lot of subjects who are just as excited and overflowing with ideas as I am and those pictures are ones I feel have turned out best. However, I have also had my fair share of working with people who had absolutely no interest in having their picture taken and were difficult to nudge a smile from. The pictured were technical good, insofar as they were exposed and composed well but there is no emotional aspect, no connection. I have learned to wait during a session. However, I have yet to thoroughly employ that technique. By that I mean to wait for a moment where the subject reveals something so minute about themselves in their facial expression or body language that you can't immediately pull it out of them once they are in front of your camera. So, in a way my non-action aides in the outcome of the final image.
Do you feel that moving from
West Virginia to Chicago has affected your style or inspired you?
My move from West Virginia to Chicago has definitely inspired me. I have many more avenues to pursue here, but I get homesick often and this has become the driving force behind a project I'm in the beginning stages of. I see the benefits and drawbacks of living in both places, without a doubt. But, geography has nothing to do with ones ability to create things, art or otherwise.
What kind of camera(s) do you
As far as equipment goes I have used a few different set ups in order to figure out what helps me make the best images without a lot of hassle or excess getting in the way. That said, I'm finally more than satisfied with my set up. I'm using a Nikon D700 with a 35mm f/2 and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. It is a small kit but it is efficient, however I am adding at least one more focal length to round it out. I'm slowly building up my lighting set up but it will also be small and efficient.
Finally, what do you like to
do for fun?
For fun I like to read and drink coffee...a lot of coffee. I'm also a Seinfeld nerd of the encyclopedic kind.
Here's where to find Derek: