Many readers are moved and motivated by your books such as “The Photographer’s Eye” and “Michael Freeman’s Photo School Landscape” in Taiwan, could you let us know how do you come up with these great works in the first place? Is there anything unforgettable or interesting while you were writing them?
I began writing books on photography many years ago, and I’ve always enjoyed trying to explain what I as a professional photographer (and my friends who are also professionals) set about shooting. It always seemed to me that there was a publishing gap in dealing with and talking about the real underlying issues of photography—not the technical and mechanical aspects, but the ideas and the visual imagination that need to go into shooting at a professional level. I manage to write one book a year—more would be too many—and I choose the different themes that go into this way of thinking about photography.
There are many people who love photography in Taiwan, but also quite a lot of them are struggling between taking it more seriously as a career and just leaving simply as a hobby. What does it take to go on this road, as a professional photographer? When and how did you decide to choose photograph as a life-time vocation?
Doing photography as a full-time career is not at all easy, and perhaps less easy now than it was in earlier years, because much of the kind of shooting that used to be the preserve of professionals is now very well covered by amateurs. And many amateurs have photographic skills every bit as good as professionals. So you need to think very carefully before making this big step. I believe the future of photography as a career will be limited in future to certain specialized areas, including sports, fashion, weddings and social photography, advertising. General photography, editorial and documentary, will probably in future be unable to sustain a full-time career.
As we know, the internet can spread our works widely and quickly. But how could we protect our creation from being misused (or so called stolen) by individuals or corporations?
The short answer is that you cannot. Simply look at the even more serious problem of malware and data protection, and how there will always be ways to steal and misuse content published on the internet. However, my experience is that few people or companies steal imagery that would normally be paid for. The people who steal photographs generally do it for their own personal use, and my attitude (perhaps different from most photographers’) is that if someone appropriates my imagery for a screen-saver or a blog, I don’t really mind as long as it is credited to my name.
Digital Cameras and Smart Phones have made photography much more approachable than before (everyone can take a picture nowadays), what do you suggest for those who have just entered this business as professional photographers in Asia (Taiwan)?
That you need to compete at a different level and on different terms from before. You are no longer employed as a professional photographer because of an ability to operate the equipment, but instead to offer a deeper and more imaginative understanding of your clients’ needs. Your photographs simply have to be better at fulfilling your clients’ needs than those of an amateur.
photo by Penkdix Palme
The controversial “frog wearing umbrella” photo had aroused many disputes globally; however, in Taiwan, more people have different opinions toward “retouch.” Some of them insist that a photo should not be altered in any way, when the others think that it’s perfectly ok to spice it up as long as we do not fake it. What’s your opinion? What do you think of prearranged photo (for example, ask fishers or farmers to appear in a given time and place)?
I think that commonsense should rule the debate. My guiding principle is that a photograph in this area of manipulation or retouching should meet the expectations of an audience. If it looks as if it should be a news photograph or a documentary photograph, what would a reasonable member of the public expect? The answer: that it should be entirely accurate with no alteration of content whatsoever. On the other hand, a frog carrying an umbrella is clearly not real, no more than a Spiderman movie, so any form of manipulation is acceptable. You raise a very good point about the setting-up of a picture situation, which predates digital and has gone on since the beginnings of photography. Again, what would the audience expect? Not every image has to be purely caught from real life as street photography. Does anyone expect that a portrait with the subject looking calmly to camera was taken candidly? No, of course not.
As a well-known and experienced photographer, could you offer some useful tips to our readers regarding how to hone our photograph techniques and take great pictures just like you?
I’m not sure that anyone should want to take pictures just like me! I’m simply one experienced photographer among many. But the route to satisfying photography lies in thought and in visual skills rather than in a new camera. Basically, I would advise readers to devour all forms of photography, looking especially at the work of the masters, so as to fully absorb what other creative minds and eyes are capable of. In addition to this, shoot and experiment as much as possible. Try to find visual interest in whatever is around you. Professional photographers generally become good by shooting all the time, every day. Practice may not make perfect, but it goes a long way!
The translation of “Michael Freeman’s Photo School：Landscape, Light & Lighting, Street and The Photographer’s Story" originally published in English are published by arrangement with THE ILEX PRESS Limited.