|22nd December 2008||#1|
Join Date: 5th February 2007
Location: Greece > Scotland > Everywhere
The 'Richard Calmes' interview
I`ve always had a soft spot for dancing, not so for myself but the beauty of movement and delicate yet powerful exhibition of body language.
I've known Richard for quite awhile now and whenever he sends me a link of his new work, I visit his site straight away, as I know that I am in for a treat.
I find his work simply magnificent and very inspiring. He dedicates hours and days for this and he loves every minute and the best part is that he doesn`t do it for money. An excellent photographer that I had the pleasure interviewing.
I believe you will enjoy his interview and you will love his artistic work.
merry Christmas to all.
Q. Was there anyone (i.e. other photographers) who influenced your work, and what was it about their work that inspired you?
Believe it or not Ansel Adams has inspired me. He looked at photography and the darkroom as all part of the same process. He would shoot knowing how he was going to process in the darkroom. And process he did! He would frequently work all day perfecting ways of dodging, burning and manipulating a single image. As the years passed he would also change the way he processed a particular image as he looked for new ways to express the beauty he saw in his mind when he took the original image.
My dance photography has been influenced by Lois Greenfield. She has taken capturing movement and “the moment” to new heights. I have spent a good bit of quality time with her and she is a very creative artist!
Q. Have you done any formal training in photography, or are you self taught?
I am self-taught. I bought my first camera (a Canon FT-QL) at the PX in DaNang South Vietnam. Soon I became a combat photographer. I have attended a number of NAPP Photoshop seminars.
Q. Do you have a special or favourite PP technique or do you try to get the best results on location and in camera?
I see post processing as all part of the same creative process. I light and shoot knowing how I am going to handle the image in post. I specialize in the dance world which is “the stage”. The stage is a place of total creativity as to settings, lighting, costumes, and choreography. My approach to studio photography is the same. I try to produce images that show the power and beauty of dance in new ways. To do this I mix lighting techniques on the set with lighting techniques in post. I shoot dancers that are in their 20’s, By this time they have spent 15 to 20 years perfecting their skills. They summon all of this training in an all out burst of beauty for my lens…many times risking injury to get “That shot”. With this in mind I will go to any length to portray that moment the best way I can. That means I sometimes spend a day working on an image in Photoshop. They give me 20 years, what is a few hours of my time? In the end, experience is the best teacher so I try to get better each time I pick up the camera.
Q. On your photographic journey, did you go through different phases, different styles?
Yes! There was the Vietnam war phase where I concentrated on trying to portray the war in an artistic way, not a journalistic way. Then when I got back, I took a few serious shots but soon all I did was take snapshots of family and friends for the next 30 years without an interest in serious photography. I got interested in Videography when my daughter started ballet. I ended up with a small video sideline business doing family histories, weddings, and other documentaries. Then 4 years ago my wife took over the marketing for a local ballet school and they needed marketing shots. I purchased a Canon digital SLR and I was hooked! From there it has been a continual progression. I have tried to get better every time I shoot dancers whether it is in performance, the streets of New York City, or the studio.
Q. Did you ever have any advice from colleagues, friends, forums, reviews, etc. and how helpful was it to you?
I read many forums and I subscribe to 2 photo magazines. I am eager to learn and grow. At my age, I do not have a lot of time left to do this so I have had to accelerate the process. Lois Greenfield told me two things that have been very valuable in the studio. One is to turn the dancer or dancers and shoot them from different angles from what I originally set up, and the other is to have the dancers perform the jump or move several times before stopping to look at the laptop.
Q. When you find your subject to shoot, are you usually looking for something to enhance it? A certain way of lighting perhaps?
Many of my subjects are set up by me. Either on location or the studio so I am very aware of the light. So I use whatever I feel makes the scene work. Sometimes I cannot control the light on location so I do it in post.
Q. Tell us about your equipment and what pushed you to that decision.
Well, I have been a Canon user all my life! I do not know why I bought a Canon at the PX in Vietnam but it has been a good lifelong choice. I currently use A Canon 1D Mark III for the 10 frames/second and a Canon 1Ds Mark III for the 21megpx and low light capabilities.
Q. How do you see your photographic future, what do you dream about?
I want to shoot better and better dancers. And I want to shoot them in new creative settings and ways. If you watch the short video on my site, you will learn that a great goal is to shoot American Ballet Theatre dancers. It is a dream for sure….
Q. Do you have any specific photographic experiences that were of a wow factor and will remain with you forever?
Well, there are the Vietnam shots that I still remember shooting.
In recent times there are three:
One was last October shooting a pair of dancers in the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Everything about the moment was magical: two beautiful dancers, great light, the water. I asked Andrew to walk with Lucy and kick his feet. I was walking sideways shooting shot after shot. I never saw the birds until I opened it on my laptop back at the hotel! http://www.pbase.com/rcalmes/image/87181656
Another was in July on the roof a building in Queens. We had been shooting all day and everyone was tired and I had the dancers climb the 6 floors of this building with their suitcases of costumes. You could see the skyline of New York City in the distance. The sun was setting and I had Aisha jump from a 2 foot high parapet wall into the sky and land on the roof. What a fabulous jump! The dancers looked at that shot on my camera screen and suddenly they were invigorated. They were eager to go “all out”. Each one was trying to out-jump the other. It was another magical moment Every shot was a beauty. But here is the jump that sparked it all http://www.pbase.com/rcalmes/image/100147367
The last was a studio session. A beautiful senior dancer was in an auto accident where she broke her neck, foot, ribs…you get the idea. We were all crushed and prayed that her career would not be over. What followed were months of her wearing a halo device that immobilized her head, then 2 operations where her neck vertebrae were fused followed by weeks of wearing a neck brace. I was shooting all of the other seniors at the ballet studio and she showed up! She had shed her neck brace the day before and been told that she could dance again. She was stiff and out of shape but she wanted to be shot with all of her other friends. She assumed a position on the floor and strained as hard as she could. All of her friends were cheering her on. There was not a dry eye in the studio…including me. Here is the shot I call it “I’m Back”
http://www.pbase.com/rcalmes/image/60432085 I have shot her many times since but I will always remember this one!
Q. How important is photography to you besides any financial gains?
Dance photography is an important part of my life now! I am a retired businessman and I am following this dance muse wherever she may lead while I still have energy and my health. I am planning more location shoots and I have been asked by many dance companies to shoot their performances. I do not charge anyone for my services. There is not much money in dance anyway. Most dance companies live hand to mouth. I do it for the fun and the challenge…and for the art. Dancers get images for their portfolios and dance companies get images they can use for promotion and I am continually inspired! Everyone wins!
Q. If you would change what is now your favourite subject in photography, what other subject would you really like to follow?
I cannot imagine another subject that has the color, the settings, the athleticism, the beauty and the challenge of capturing all of that in pixels!
Q. What really inspires you now?
I am inspired by dancers. Dancers start at the age of 5 or 6 taking class 2 to 3 times a week. By the time they are 10 it is 4 or 5 times a week. By highschool it is 5 and 6 days a week plus rehearsals. They do not take summers off. Instead they go to intensives at dance schools all over the USA. If they go professional after highschool, they struggle to find jobs…and then keep them. Rejection is a part of their everyday life. They continue to take class 4 to 6 times a week until they retire. Yet they love it and perform even the smallest most insignicant role with the same zest as they would if it were a starring role.
Q. Which one of your own images is very special to you and why?
“I’m back” http://www.pbase.com/rcalmes/image/60432085
And I recently reshot her in a very similar pose http://www.pbase.com/rcalmes/image/101704554
Q. A link for your website?
Q. And finally, what message would you send to the members of our forum and in general any new or fairly new photographers?
Find something that really turns you on and go after it. Learn all you can about it. Work hard. You will get better and better.
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|interview, richard calmes|