Somojo Magazine

Photography by Ben Gebo


When did you first pick up a camera and discover your love for creating images?
When I first figured out that one slice of time can be captured visually. I have also used the camera as a shield of sorts. When I have a camera in my hands, I find it can make me seem a lot more inviting or a lot more lamented. Either I am fine with.

How long have you been involved in the photographic industry?
I consider my photography career starting at an early age. As far as making it as a career for myself, I’ve been doing it full time for about two years.

What is your background/training?
I think my training started when I was very young and wanted to freeze moments. You know, kind of like Zack Morris in Saved By The Bell. I did get my training at New England School of Photography. It’s a great school with a two year program that crams so much in. I wouldn’t have the confidence and structure that I have now, had I not attended a Technically heavy Photography School.

Are you a full time or part time photographer?
At the moment I have been shooting full time. Anytime I am not shooting for an assignment I am always trying to set up shoots to keep my motivation and skill top notch.

Have you held any exhibitions?
I haven’t had exhibitions of my work exclusively, but I had some images in a landscape series in a show for the Copley Society Art in Boston last May. I have also had numerous work shown at New England School of Photography.

Who have you photographed/worked for?
As far as people, I shoot a lot of artists, business owners, also anyone I find visually interesting. For Architecture, I shoot a lot of commercial and residential space. Some recent clients have been AIGA, Emerge Spa & Salon, as well as interior and graphic designers. In October, I am going to England to shoot a portfolio for British Airways on “Modern London.” I’ll be there for roughly 10 days, shooting a lot of people and the architecture which shows London in a modern way. I have never been there, so I am trying to plan out my shoots with precision.

What types of photography do you do?
I shoot mainly Architectural and Portraiture.

Which of these if you could, would you spend 100% of your time working on?
That’s a tough one. I love architecture because I have a fascination with symmetry and form, but any image with a human in it automatically draws a viewers attention in a completely different way. We are all more relatable to the emotion that is any portrait, whether it be a candid photograph by Elliot Erwitt or a new studio portrait shot by Dan Winters.

Is there a type or style of photography that you haven’t yet tried that interests you?
All forms of photography fascinate me. I really have always been drawn to documentary and photojournalism. That is very little concept and almost all just documentation, but needs to be shot at the right second with as much creativity as you can put into it. It’s really just separating yourself from your subject. That limits control, although sometimes it’s good to have limitations. I find people can strive for more when they have less options.

What is the worst experience you’ve had on a shoot?
Well every shoot there is something that goes wrong. Being a photographer, you have to know how to problem solve. The worst experience I’ve ever had on a shoot is when I lost faith in the project, yet had to continue to shoot it anyways. Doing anything you don’t want to do makes you lose motivation. But you know, it helps build character.

What is the best experience you’ve had on a shoot?
Knowing that every shot I am getting my client will love just as much as I do. When everyone walks away happy, that’s when you know you’ve had a good shoot.

What is the hardest part of being a photographer in today’s business climate?
We’re all shooting less and marketing more. You need money to keep up with the marketing, so it can seem like you’re chasing your own tail when your tail keeps getting shorter and shorter. I do look for the silver lining usually, so it’s important to stay motivated and know your budget.

Do you work with digital, film or both?
I shoot mainly digital, but when it’s possible, I like to shoot with my Mamiya 645E. Digital is great in so many ways, but film just has something to it. It’s got more purity. Does that sound right? I guess it’s like comparing a cassette to an mp3.

Being that a lot of photographic imaging is now purely digital, do you think many photographers are slowly becoming digital artists or graphic designers and moving away from the traditional role of a photographer?
That’s a question I ponder quite frequently. I feel that image compositing and using High Dynamic Range, stuff like that can change what it means to be a photographer. People like Gary Land and anyone who does heavy manipulation to an image to get their vision shown exactly how they want to, more power to them. It’s not changing what photography is based upon, which is your own unique vision of the world. It does take a different kind of brain to shoot fashion as opposed to someone documenting an electoral race or something.

Do you think that the advancement in digital cameras and technology has made your job easier?
Absolutely, but there are drawbacks. The turnaround time is a lot easier, we can tether our cameras to a computer to see the exposure full size a second later, and the money you save purchasing CF cards compared to film is just ridiculous. The drawbacks are your client wanting to see your images right then and there and also they expect the turnaround just as quickly. I don’t like hearing, “You can just photoshop that, right?” I think it’s best to get it done right in camera every time, if possible.

Are the internet and online photographic agencies good for the photographic industry and photographers or are there too many options for photographers to choose from?
Agencies are a great asset to any photography business. The problem with agencies is that you’ll never be able to get an agent until you’re so busy with work that you don’t actually need one. You can be successful without an agent, but all the potential work you get is all your doing only.

Do you think that most photographers are as knowledgeable as they could be about copyright law and image licensing?
The smart ones are. People get their work stolen left and right. Not to mention clients trying to keep leases out on your images longer than they are supposed to be. It can be a boring thing to learn, but a very important thing.

How do you promote your work?
I do a lot a viral marketing on the internet as well as promotional cards to potential clients. The best way to get work is by making your current clients happy. There is a lot of power of people spreading the word. It can work against, though. Good news travels fast, bad news, even faster.

Do you use any internet forums or social networks?
Yes, all the big ones. Facebook, Myspace, various photography and designer websites. I also am all up in the blogging world.

Lots of people recommend social networks for promoting small businesses. Is it something you have considered or do?
Yes, and it has worked pretty good thus far. It all depends on how you use it. Some photographers just don’t know how to market online effectively, others are just better at doing it in other ways.

Do you ever look at the work of other photographers to see how current techniques and image styles are changing and developing?
Of course, I spend 2 hours every day looking at other people’s work to get influenced, to see what’s in and what’s going on. I don’t let it influence my style, because a fad is a fad. Right now, everything is very sharpened with a slightly desaturated color. I think if you believe in what you shoot, you’ll eventually get recognized for your own unique vision in a crowd of followers.

Who is your favourite photographer?
Tough one. My favorite Portrait photographer is probably Yousuf Karsh. Although Richard Avedon and Robert Frank are both two tremendous inspirations for me. My favorite Architectural photographer? Surprising, I don’t think I have one.

What is your all time favourite photographic image?
Any picture that I have missed because I didn’t have my camera on me.

Which celebrity, actor or band would you most like to work with if the opportunity came along?
I’d would probably say Stephen Malkmus is my main musician to shoot. I’m a huge Pavement fan. I think I would also really like to shoot Gary Oldman.

What is your favourite piece of photographic kit you currently own?
I think my tripod, besides my camera.

Given an unlimited budget, what would be on your photographic equipment shopping list?
Hah, it would be a long one. I would fist buy a studio, then a complete ProPhoto lighting setup. I would also get numerous computers. Can purchasing a permanent assistant and technical team count?

What do you think the future holds for professional photographers?
Video. From everything that’s coming out now, that seems to be the wave of the future, really the wave of now. I’ll have to pay more attention to studying some of the film greats, not that I don’t already spend enough time doing that. But there will always be a place for photography in this world, I think.

Anything else you’d like to ad?
Photography is supposed to be fun. Take pictures, regardless if you’re a pro or if you’ve got a camera phone. Everyone has something to say, maybe we’ll all have something to learn. Also, if you’d like to see any of my work, please check out www.bengebo.com.

Thanks.

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