Master of Color
Photographer Q & A
Describe the moment or event that inspired your decision to become a photographer.
My dad was a doctor and a patient of his was an engineer whose hobby was photography. One day when I was 14 years old, my dad asked his patient to show me how to make prints, and as my own hobby at the time was "magic", I will never forget the moment I first saw a print "come up" in the developer. It was an electric moment for me and I clearly remember thinking right then that I wanted to be a photographer, and that photography was magical and that somehow I was very fortunate to know what it was I wanted to pursue.
What is your favorite photography tip to share with other photographers?
I advise young photographers to read as much as they can about the places they're going to—not guidebooks, but novels and essays that verbally describe the people, the light, the smells, and the landscapes they will be visiting. In the back of my mind I always have those verbal descriptions that inspire me to turn them into visual metaphors of the place I'm trying to capture with images.
Favorite photography book and why?
Ernst Haas's The Creation is my favorite photography book because it shows you the present world and convinces you that you are looking back in time thousands of years ago to its birth. It's a landmark, monumental work of art that expanded the boundaries of color photography.
Most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
The most unusual thing I carry in my bag is a good, old-fashioned policeman's whistle. You'd be surprised how loud those can be, and as I sometimes wander very far off on sand dunes, or in deep grass, it's not unusual to find myself in some very compromising situations. One blast and suddenly you've made your point—they're small, lightweight, don't need batteries, and really attract attention when you need it most.
Name a geographical place that you'd love to return to or go to for an assignment.
I'd love to go to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific—geographically they're as far from civilization as you can get. It's a spectacular series of islands and the only way to get there is by freighter. Gauguin found inspiration there, and is buried on one of the islands, as is the French singer Jacques Brel.
What's the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
The best piece of advice I ever received from a photographer was to shoot the light when you see it. Tomorrow it will look different, and it will never be the same. Catch it while you can, because that moment is what is "speaking" to you.
What photography project or assignment has been most meaningful for you and why?
When I was 29 years old, I gave myself the assignment of photographing Bruce Springsteen, who at the time was relatively unknown. Ormond Yard Press in London just published a large, 18X24" book of those photographs Born to Run Revisited, and it's a constant reminder of what I advise younger photographers—no one gives you freedom. You take it. That session helped put me on the map, but more importantly it made me realize that you can't sit around waiting for assignments to come your way. Some will, but the best ones are the ones you give yourself.
What current projects are keeping you engaged?
I'm working on a book of abstracts, with color as the subject. It's not just that the photographs are in color, but they are about color—there's an important difference. It's some of my most interesting work, and I'm finding that just doing this series is carrying over to my other work and informing my approach to how I see the "real world".
What's in your camera bag right now?
Right now I've got two "kits"—one is simply a Canon 5D Mark II with their new 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS lens. I use that when I want to look more like a tourist and when I need to travel light—say on a long afternoon walk on the streets of a city.
The other "kit" is a full setup--the above, plus another 5D Mark II body, and 24-105mm zoom, 14mm/2.8 L, 100mm f/2.8 Macro, and 300mm f/2.8 L. And more...lots and lots of gear for those times I need and want everything so I can pick and choose.
What do you love about your Lowepro bag(s)?
Camera bags are like countries—each one is unique and has its own geography. I love having as many choices as possible, because each assignment is different, and my needs are different in terms of the gear I carry. Lowepro has the widest selection, and is one of the few companies that listens to photographers—they're constantly updating, upgrading and improving their products and the result is an attention to detail which has become legend among pros.
Visit the colorful world of Eric Meola photography and learn more about upcoming workshops at his web site. Learn more about the publishing process of the limited-edition Born to Run Revisited book at the Ormond Yard Press blog.
Eric Meola's Lowepro gear:
Eric Meola:Web site
Canon Explorers of Light
Ormond Yard Press
Showcasing a portfolio of his color images in its October 2008 issue, Rangefinder magazine referred to Eric as one of a "handful of color photographers who are true innovators." Eric Meola's graphic use of color has informed his photographs and his distinguished career for more than four decades. His prints are in several private collections and museums, including the A.S.M.P. archive, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the International Center of Photography in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in Munich. He has won numerous awards including the "Advertising Photographer of the Year" award from the American Society of Media Photographers.
As a Canon "Explorer of Light," Eric has lectured extensively, including such institutions as Syracuse University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Brooks (Santa Barbara) and the Art Center at Pasadena. In 2004, Graphis Editions published his first book The Last Places on Earth, a look at disappearing tribes and cultures throughout the world. In 2011, Ormond Yard Press of London published his most unusual book, the mammoth (18"x24", 14 lbs.) edition of photographs of Bruce Springsteen—Born to Run Revisited—that was limited to 500 copies. Streets of Fire, his fifth book, will be published by HarperCollins in the fall of 2012.