Friday, January 29, 2010

Self interview, part 1.

I found a list of self-interview questions online a couple weeks ago and thought it might be fun to answer them throughout the next few months. This will give you a chance to learn about me, and just might reveal somethings I didn't know about myself. Well, without further ado, I give you... me.

Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: Hmmm. I never really decided on a specific day that I would start taking photography to the next level, but it was about 5 years ago when I began purchasing more professional equipment and experimenting with off-camera lighting. In about 7 years, I've gone from taking blurry-self-portraits in a smoky bar to using umbrellas, soft-boxes, Pocket Wizards, professional lenses and bodies and producing the photos you see on my blog and website.

Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: Zip, zero, zilch. All of my knowledge is self-taught. I don't believe you necessarily have to have formal training to be a photographer. If you have the passion and drive to do something you love, there's no obstacle big enough. I think my unique style to capture life's most special moments is testament enough that all you need is a vision and a camera. Period.

Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go WOW??
A: Definitely. Between 2002-2004, I was producing videos called vidblogs with a sony miniDV camera. They were nothing more than simple, artsy-interpretations of everyday life with background music. Basically, a visual blog of what had been happening that week. My website at the time needed an image for one of the vidblogs I had produced. I set my point-and-shoot Sony camera on my camcorder stand, adjusted a few settings, set the timer, then...

(2004, self-portrait)

Click! There it was, the first photo that made me think, "cool". After that, it slowly became a weird obsession to tinker with the depth-of-field, lighting and angle in every shot I took. I was forever changed!

Q: Do you think of yourself as an artist and what do you think of the word artist?
A: Art is a very subjective and general term. What one person might find beautiful, aesthetically pleasing or appealing might greatly differ from the next person. For someone to be an artist, they must first believe they are producing a work of art. I like to think of myself as an artist in everything I do. The dinner I cook (I tend to be very anal when it comes cooking, just ask my wife), the pictures I draw or paint, and the photographs I take all have a touch of something that makes them unique and a work of art. The beauty of the word 'artist' is that I don't have to convince anyone but myself I'm an artist. So, yes, I believe I am an artist and a photographer. :)

Q: Who has influenced your photography career the most?
A: My whole life has involved creativity in one way or another. From the time I was a youngster, my grandma had me painting and drawing. I think that is what really set me on the path to where I am today. My parent's constant support as a child also allowed me to become more confident in my creativeness as an adult. Now that I'm a bit older, my rock has to be my wife, Haley. She has supported me from the first time I had her posing in a cramped condo with a speedlight bouncing off a wall. I spent hours trying to achieve a dramatic, 'off-camera-flash' look with no umbrella, triggers, or basic knowledge of flash photography. Her understanding, patience and love is what propelled me to where I am today. As long as I have her support, there isn't anything that I can't do.

Q: Tell your funniest story from a photo shoot!
A: There are a lot of funny stories that happen during any given shoot, so I'll refer to something that happened a few weeks ago that had me laughing pretty hard. I visited my friends, Jim and Meghan, so I could take newborn photos of their 10 day-old, Lily. When I first arrived, she was sound asleep. We decided to eat dinner before doing the shoot since we were all pretty hungry. As soon as we finished eating and I began setting up my light equipment, Lily woke up. I generally never try to take photos of an awake newborn because they just never turn out, but Lily was so cute, I just had to try.

(2010, Lily. Taken by Matthew Stenzel.)

Well, after about 5 minutes of getting tyrannosaurus rex photos like the one above, we decided to spend some quality time getting her to sleep. So, after some careful handling by mom, some cuddling and feeding, Lily finally fell asleep. We set her down on the couch and I began posing her. She was still a little fidgety and not completely asleep and we just couldn't imagine that after an hour of TLC and cuddling, she wouldn't be tired. Then it happened. Like an explosion from Mount St. Helens, she pooped and peed all over the blanket. Almost instantaneously, she fell into a deep slumber and was a limp noodle. Jim and Meghan rushed to clean her, and I quickly said "No, no, no, she's finally asleep. Just let me get a few shots really quick." I just blurted it out, not realizing how they might feel about the blanket she was laying on or the couch which it soaked through to. We all started laughing and when it was all said and done, I got some pretty amazing shots of the little peanut.

(2010, Lily. Taken by Matthew Stenzel.)

Thanks for reading through this. Stay tuned for part 2 in the next week or so.
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