Photographing is not just capturing a motif. Photography is communication and evokes subjective emotions. Ben Evans‘ thoughts on Photography carry it on to a deeper level and tackles to Photography from a very reflective and thoughtful point of view. The English Photographer covers all different aspects of photography, from Street to Landscape to Fashion, and many many more.
We were very honoured to collaborate with him for the Fresh Faces Big Finals 2013, where he enriched our team as one of the main photographers. Shooting the models as well as behind the scene pictures, his photographs are some of our very favourite ones.
In addition, Ben is very engaged with sharing his unique knowledge about photography with aspiring photographers in workshops and is teaching them a lot more than only the right use of the equipment and the choice of motif. The young but very experienced photographer is concerned with the right attitude towards photography, which includes a philosophical aspect and puts big weight on the deeper intention of a picture. A project, which he is running on this topic, is called Holistic Photography.
His versatile awareness towards photography also reveals in the diverse other projects in which he involves himself. Besides the workshops he is offering, Ben already published very successfuly his book ‘Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know’ and convinces as poet in his poetry book ‘Bread and Bulls’. And more is already about to come!
Meet the sparkling photographer and personality closer in this eye-widening interview, we had the pleasure to have with Ben:
Modelmanagement: Working for years as a photographer, what fascinates you the most about photography?
Ben Evans: Most of our knowledge of the world comes through our eyes. Light, which is just energy, bounces off reality and some of it makes its way through the tiny holes in our eyes and gains significance. Our relationship is normally with the light, not with the thing itself. We may see someone and cry with happiness. The light carries the spark that makes us feel. Photography allows you to capture subtle blends of light to form images which, when viewed, may elicit a full range of emotions in different viewers. The image doesn’t change; but preserving it allows our relationship with the people and scene as they once appeared to last. The internet allows it to be shared with thousands of others. We live in a visually obsessed society, so everyone seems to want pictures. This allows the photographers to have all sorts of interesting experiences and meet fascinating people; but because most photography isn’t really that important in the scheme of things, it’s always great fun.
MM: With your photography you are covering many fields, from Street Photography to Portraits. What do you think is so special about fashion photography? And how does it differ from portrait or street photography?
BE: The common element in any photograph is an emotional heartbeat. The world is the raw material. Because we are so readily affected by images of others, I particularly enjoy photographing people. Street photography can be more un-posed, more voyeuristic and perhaps more genuine. Portrait photography requires a relationship with or at least a preconception of the subject. Sometimes it can feel like a chess game. Fashion, like any medium with scope for art, aims to spike our emotions. It also tends to be very aesthetically pleasing. I love photographing fashion on those two levels; how it looks and how it makes us feel.
MM: Your first published book “Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know”, which sparked excitement, promises an easy access to photography with its title. What is the most important advice that you would give to aspiring photographers?
BE: Understand what you’re trying to capture or convey. Photography is just a way to communicate, like writing, singing or dance. You’re preserving how things looked or expressing how they made you think or feel. The message is all important. And the message can be an idea or simply a feeling. Practically, this means thinking about what’s important in your photograph. Then cut distractions ruthlessly; if it doesn’t add to the main message, it detracts. Keep it simple. Get closer. Watch your background. And remember that you’re capturing the light bouncing off the object and never the object itself. Oh, and practice!
MM: Being on the other side of the lens, what is the best way for a model to interact with the camera? What are the main dos and don’ts for a model in a photoshoot?
BE: I think too many photographers think of the models as beautiful mannequins. Despite what the designers may assume, people buy emotion and dreams, not fabric and leather. A good model knows this, and understands how to convey the appropriate emotions to match the brand. So models ought to consider how they’re coming across and communicate with the photographer to ensure that they’re capturing this. Both need to be present to the moment and let go of any ego; the final photograph is all important. Every model is good looking; expression of character sets them apart. In a sense they’re interacting with the camera and the photographer should remain non-judgemental and emotionally invisible. But of course if the model is less experienced, as many of the younger models are, then the photographer needs to elicit the right ‘look’ in collaboration with the model. Personally I think the best characteristic in a model is a playful sense of irreverence. But don’t chew gum 😉
MM: Many people complain about not being photogenic, is it something that one can practice? And if yes, then can you reveal us some tips how a model can improve its effect in front of the camera?
BE: So much of this comes down to the photographer and their choice of lens and lighting. Most camera phones are a moderate wide-angle which is unflattering for portraiture. so most people’s experience of pictures of themselves is negative. Trust the photographer and relax. They want you to look your best (for the client/portfolio!) so any unflattering shots won’t be seen. Practically, sleep well, avoid processed sugars, eat healthily, take care of your hair and exercise – swimming in the sea is great if you’re in Barcelona. Habits sculpt your body. Turn your head towards the brightest light and your body slightly away. Get a huge mirror and practice. Get a copy of Vogue and try to replicate the poses and expressions with a friend with a camera, seeing what works for you personally. Be authentic and learn to control your emotions – try music, movement and meditation.
MM: You did amazing shots during the Fresh Faces Grand Finals, what are your main methods to capture a model’s best side?
BE: Thanks, it’s a lot easier as the models were fun and looked amazing and I had the support of all the make-up artists, stylists, designers, Hiromi, a lovely choreographer, lighting professionals, the W’s architects, the list goes on! So it’s more of a collaboration, and working with a top team helps tremendously. Behind the camera, it’s just a matter of looking at what’s actually happening and having the patience to wait for the decisive moment.
MM: The shots for Fresh Faces also contain a lot of backstage pictures with an intense atmosphere. What are the most important rules to capture such atmospheres with the camera?
BE: Photograph enough to be ignored. Models are very aware of when they’re being photographed so candid moments are tricky to capture unless everyone’s completely used to you being there. It’s important to respect the models’ privacy when they’re changing so they can trust you. Also be aware that everyone is very busy and make sure not to hold them up. Technically I use an 85mm f1.4 prime lens and a wireless flash which I put down (in the way of all the make up artists!) and use that to help improve the lighting on my subject. Sometimes I’ll ask Hiromi to light a subject from a certain direction so I can make the pictures more dramatic. But looking is more important than anything else. ‘Learning to see’ is the fundamental basis for my coaching, as it’s something that improves your awareness and appreciation of the world when the camera’s packed away. I would recommend Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’ over a photography book or a new lens for anyone looking to improve this.
MM: Besides photographing you are very active with giving photographic coaching courses and you already published successfully your first book. What is the next project your followers can look forward to?
BE: I wrote ‘Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know‘ after my grandfather died two years ago. He loved photography and spent all his money on a camera in Venice during the war. He was a keen, talented amateur who never turned professional and later lost his sight. Photography has entirely changed the way I see the world, I owe it to him, and I wanted to share my love for the medium with anyone who wished to learn. Everything you need to appreciate photography is there and it’s available to download from www.GreatBigBear.com now for a token 99p.
Going deeper, I have another book that’s finished at 30k words but I haven’t had a moment to fill it with photographs. It will form part of a teaching project called Better Than 90% which aims to give people sufficient expertise to be better than ninety percent of people they’ll meet at photography (and other topics later).
My true passion is Holistic Photography, which unites the craft and art of creating images to teach the elusive ‘artist’s eye’. I’ve used my experience with photography, concepts from my university study of philosophy, psychology and literature and extensive research to refine the principles and ways of seeing that are most effective. Like a lot of things, this seems to be impossible to contain in a book or video series, so the only way to learn this is one-to-one coaching, internationally but based in Barcelona.
For a few photographic projects, I’m working on ‘Morigama Mode‘, based on the photographs of Jacob Sobol, Daido Moriyama and several Japanese photographers. It’s meant to feel pretty unpleasant and create a mood. http://englishphotographer.carbonmade.com/projects/4802103#1
I’ve also been photographing around the financial crisis, first capturing closed banks as tangible symbols of the recession, but having them stand as metaphors for springs; the credit crunch is the modern equivalent of a drought. I also feel strongly about the use of real estate as a financial asset, when often it’s someone’s home. The banks repossess houses and then leave them unfinished or empty to rot, while people affected by homelessness move into the foyers of banks for shelter. I’ve heard rumours that the government has an arrangement with the banks to allow this, but that’s unconfirmed. It’s darkly ironic, really.
More upbeat, following on from an article in Nikon Pro magazine I’m shooting a video of photography in Barcelona; what to see, where to go, how to photograph the sights and where to source everything locally. It’s great fun – do send your best tips to [email protected]!
Thank you a lot for this fascinating interview and the capturing pictures Ben!
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