Jeff Blucher on gaining artistic confidence, not obsessing over photographic gear, and the importance of art education.
Jeff Blucher is a Seattle-based photographer who won the Expert Vote in Photocrowd's Going off-grid assignment in which we asked photographers to break the Rule of Thirds.
You can read the review of his image Cattelan, Guggenheim by our judge Paul Bevan here.
In this blog post Jeff answers some of our questions about his photography habits and inspirations.
How did you get into photography?
I took an Introduction to photography class in my senior year in high school. Before that I had no real interest or experience in the subject. I remember that my older brother had a Kodak disc camera, which he would sometimes let me use, but it wasn’t anything I was serious about.
I now look back and think about how lucky and grateful I was that my school had labs and equipment to have a photography program.
I remember how encouraging my teacher, Mr. Montelone, was. He not only taught me the technical basics and concepts, but challenged me to see differently and gave me the encouragement to feel good about what I was doing. He convinced me to submit an entry into the local student art competition. My print was selected for a blue ribbon, a gold key, and was hung in the local museum! Without this little boost, I would probably not have had the confidence to stay with it. Sadly, more and more, funding for art and music in schools is constantly being challenged, and many students are not given the same opportunity I had.
How often and when do you take photographs?
With a full-time day job I’m mostly limited to weekends, but I do my best to get out as often as possible. Websites like Photocrowd that have contests or communities for sharing and getting feedback help to inspire and motivate me to keep at it.
What is your technical set-up?
I’m definitely not a gear head and I don’t do well at keeping up with the latest technology or camera specs. My main set-up is my Canon 5D III and 70-200mm f/4L lens, but I like to experiment with various Lensbaby optics as well. I also still enjoy shooting film with my Mamiya 645 or old Lubitel TWL, and processing it in my bathroom. From a software perspective, I love Adobe’s Lightroom for cataloging, organizing, and making exposure and tone adjustments.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Mainly trial and error. I try to learn from my many mistakes and bad ideas, and hopefully to refine the things that work well.
Whose work has influenced you most?
My favorite well-known photographers are Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans and Sally Mann. More recently, I find myself looking to my peers in online communities. Digital photography and the Internet have nearly removed any barriers for people to be able create and share their work. There is no shortage of great work to admire and learn from!
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
My current favorite is probably the one from my Center for Wooden Boats series. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I like the tones, the texture, the symmetry and the mood. Plus I have very fond memories of the day I took the photo, and it takes me back to that time.
What do you get out of being a photographer?
Ever since I can remember I’ve always felt a need to express myself in a creative way. Photography allows me to do it better than any other way I know.
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