This week we start new series titled Learn From the Experts. For each post we will be conducting in-depth interviews with internationally recognized artists, photographers, and printmakers. The series will focus on techniques used, equipments/supplies they love, business insights, and overall advice based on their personal success. The series is designed to help you advance your art or business based on solid advice and insights from leaders in the field.
To start things off we caught up with photography expert and friend Tim Walden to pick his brain for some advice and insights into photography, printing, and the photo business.
Here is a brief summary of Tim’s photography credentials:
Tim Walden, M.Photog.Cr., F-ASP
.PPA-Photographic Master and Craftsman Degrees
.ASP-Photographic Fellowship Degree
.Member of Society of XXV
.Platinum Photographer of the Year-2010 PPA
.Gerhard Bakker Award for outstanding service through education in the field of photography and visual communications
Tim is the founder of Walden’s Photography.
Q: Where do you derive your passion for photography and printing?
A: At twelve years old, I would sit in the darkroom with my father watching him make what are still some of the most beautiful black and white prints I have seen in my career. My father would instill in me the characteristics of life, art and the skills in producing that art. He was truly an expert at all three, and one of the key reasons he was an expert in life skills was the fact that he was paralyzed from just under his arms down. Bedridden for over a year, pronounced dead twice but yet through all of his injuries and illnesses, he recovered to the point that he lived the last forty years of his life creating beautiful images and printing fine art black and white. As I look back at my father’s passion, even through illness and many life challenges, he remained a true lover of the photographic art and photography field. I believe the same bug has bitten me and I could not be any more passionate about anything than I am about my photographic art today.
Q: How do you compare the darkroom vs. digital?
A: If you had asked close friends of mine five years ago, they would have said that Tim Walden will never go digital with his photography because of his passion for the dark room and the love for a truly fine art black and white. Admittedly, I was very slow in making the move to digital but it was not because of the digital capture or the technology I could use at my computer to finesse an image. However, it was in the lack of quality substrates and output medias for my style of black and white. That has changed dramatically. Now, with canvasses like Lyve Canvas and with such fine art papers as Vibrance Rag from Breathing Color, I believe I am producing some of the finest images of my career. I often say if Yankee candle would make a candle that smelled like fixer, I would be the only guy in the world that would buy it, as it reminds me of those great times with my father in the darkroom. I believe what I learned in the darkroom about quality printing serves me today as a digital artist more than I ever could have imagined. The reason for this is that many of the qualities of a great image are the same today as they were then, only the processes have changed.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a photographer?
A: I believe the greatest quality I have is vision. It’s something I treasure, nurture and strive to enhance daily. I like to say it this way: “I am more interested in my ability to see than my ability to create.” When you as an artist get beyond so many of the technical struggles so that you can begin to capture and express your vision, it’s like a freedom. You get to the point where you are capturing people’s hearts and see their personalities play out in their images. I recognize and respect the great talent that is required in this industry to truly be an artist and I realize I’ve not yet attained it to its fullest. However, as I’ve attained the level of technical ability that I have at this point in my career, it’s permitting me to share, through my photographic art and my portraiture, the things that express my heart, my passion and celebrate the lives of those I photograph.
Q: As a photographer with many talents, what type of work do you most prefer?
A: Because of my beginnings with my father and my roots in the darkroom printing black and white, it’s not surprising that my greatest passion as a portrait artist is in creating fine art, black and white portraiture. My art, if I were to describe it, carries these qualities: absolute simplicity, in other words, little to look at but my subjects and strong and unusual compositions with a flair for the more graphic and stark. To me, a portrait expresses what’s inside a person far more than simply seeing what that person looks like.
Q: What do you find most challenging about portrait photography?
A: My biggest challenge as a portrait artist is to learn about my subjects, their loves, passions, and if I’m photographing more than one person, the relationship between each other as it allows me to see the things I’ve learned play out in front of my camera. Lighting is pivotal in forming and shaping the vision that I have as I work with my clients and various subjects. Lighting is a powerful and important tool to me and I work constantly on perfecting my skills and using lighting as one of the key tools in expressing my art.
Q: What goals do you have in mind when approaching a specific job?
A: I could chat about my feelings concerning photographic art and my art on and on but I think you’ll get the point with this simple statement I often make: “When people see my images, my goal is not that they would pause and reflect instead that they would stop and rethink.”
Q: How important of a role does the printing process play for you?
A: In a world with so many ways to see photographs, I remain a print artist. My imagery is only complete and at its best when it’s in printed form. As I create images, I do so for that final piece that will hang on a wall or be held in someone’s hands. As I express my art, as much through the things I print it on, the ways I print it and the ways I present it as in the way I capture it. I am a lover of technology and at times am accused of having a gadget disease; however, with my art, it is truly captured and built for that end result. To lose or to eliminate the decisions, the processes and the artistry of print making for me would be to lose one of the key rewards I get as a photographer. It’s like the climax to a movie or the culmination of a big project to marry my art with the media and the method and produce that final print. So I remain young in my heart and in my vision and in my energy because of the many great tools that I find in this industry today with digital technology, with great papers and canvases, and as I mentioned, now my vision is only limited by my imagination.
Q: What/Who were you your most profound influences as a student photographer?
A: Certainly my father, as it’s been said. Beyond that, many great black and white portrait artists such as, Yousuf Karsh from Canada was a great influence with his beautiful black and white portraiture. Certainly, Ansel Adams with his stunning print quality and what he left us as artists in the form of understanding and education about true beautiful black and white photography was a great influence on me. However, stylistically, if I had a favorite, it would be Arnold Newman as I love the journalistic approach to his black and white portraiture, the beautiful compositions and the almost quirky style that made his work so distinctive.
Q: What business advice do you have for the aspiring photographer?
A: The greatest business advice I can offer any aspiring photographer is to define a style that reflects them as an artist. Something that is birthed from their heart and can be developed in such a way that it’s recognizable to others, that it’s unique. The more distinctive your style the greater the gap between you and other image-makers, because your work is recognizable. As odd as this may sound, I believe that to be a distinctive artist, you have to be less concerned with people liking what you do, as that they know what you do, because when they recognize your style, those that love it will travel and pay what’s necessary to have it. When it’s not recognizable, people generally shop on two basic premises: price and location, and that’s an area I don’t want to compete in.
Q: Can you tell us more about the equipment you use to shoot and print?
A: I use one of two different cameras: a Hasselblad H2 with a Leaf back for more studio portraits. I also love Canon 5D MarkII. It’s an exceptional camera built on 35MM format. Printers that I am using are Epson 9800s. In studio, I’m shooting with Profoto Lights with Larson soft boxes. We have many custom sets my wife has designed and painted or backgrounds painted by our friend David Maheu. All computers are Mac with primary software being Photoshop, of course. Beyond that, I love Nik’s Softwares and even have our own Walden black and white palette with ronnichols.com we use.
Q: During a session, how many shots would you say you take on average before finding the right one?
A: I’ve always been an overshooter, and I always joke if there was an Overshooters Anonymous, I would be the first member, as I love the subtle things that happen even in a posed photograph. The subtle things in expression and body language that happen in an instant and take an image to the next level. For that reason, I’ll shoot one hundred plus images in an hour session, but always narrow it down to just a dozen or so that really represent my subject and my vision.
Q: What makes you choose to shoot something in B&W over color?
A: Well, black and white to me best represents my art form and my passion. I have a natural tendency to script my sets and clothing toward black and white, as I see the end result in my mind’s eye quicker and easier. Because of the reputation as a black and white artist, most of my subjects are driven to me because of our black and white art. So, that decision often times, whether to do black and white or color, is determined by that subject who saw my black and white and that is what they want. However, I truly do love color photography and we do quite a bit of it, but it’s a bit more toward a classical style with rich colors and a timeless feel, a bit less graphic and a bit less emotional, more of a “study” if you will. So I would chose color if that classic description best suited the subject that came through the door.
Have a question or comments for Tim? Leave one below…
About Tim Walden, M.Photog.Cr., F-ASP
Tim started as a young man of 12 helping his father print in their darkroom and fell in love with photography and print-making. He then went on to perfect his skills as a photographer and a printer, earning his Master of Photography Degree at the age of 25, with his Craftsman Degree following soon afterwards. In Kentucky, his home state, his work has won many awards, including Best of Show and Master Photographer of the Year several times. Tim has scored perfect 100s several times in print competition and his work can be seen in many Loan Collection publications. Kodak has recognized his work through Gallery Awards, a Gallery Elite and publication in their Portrait Book. In 2003, Tim became a Kodak Mentor, in 2004, he received the Imaging Excellence Award and in 2007, he was awarded the Gold Level Photographer of the Year Award. He is a member of the Society of XXV, a qualified National Juror, an accomplished lecturer, and most recently, he earned his ASP Fellowship Degree.
About Breathing Color
Breathing Color® is a leading designer and supplier of award-winning inkjet canvas, inkjet fine art paper, photo paper and print varnish. Breathing Color is focused on the fine art and photographic markets with products for Epson®, Canon®, HP® and Roland® Printers that lead the industry in color and longevity. Breathing Color’s customers benefit from the highest quality at competitive prices by buying direct.