LUMUNAUT STORY #66: PHOTOGRAPHER TONY VENTOURIS
From day one I wanted to be a marine biologist and research shark behavior. I knew almost all known (at the time) sharks by their scientific name before I finished elementary school. Talk about geeky. I no longer remember all the facts and names, but I still have that same passion...and it is waiting to be used. As I got into middle school I wanted to be a rock star instead. My father was in a band for years, and I ended up being in a heavy metal band for eight years and three albums. I ended up in photography after that. Who would have thought? Maybe I should learn to dive and go create shark images though. Probably more fun than buildings.
WHERE DID YOU MEET PHOTOGRAPHY OR WHERE DID IT MEET YOU?
I had an affinity for polaroid cameras when I was young. I have several and there are old pictures from childhood all over the place. However, I say the real passion started in a high school photography class. I took it as an elective. Learning the dark room was fun. Digital was barely in its infancy...1mp was huge. I had a friend that worked in the school office and would call down and request that I be sent to them. They always thought I was in trouble but it was just an easy way to not be in class. It was the only class I ever tried to get out of. Funny how it is the class that stuck with me, though.I LOVED making a pinhole camera. I think that really stayed with me as I am still into the very slow, tripod based, long exposure kind of photography today.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CAMERA IN YOUR HAND?
I never have a camera in hand! I work on a tripod. In all seriousness though, I have several other passions that all kind of intermix. I am a musician and still love to write, record, and play with others. I actually got my start in photography professionally via the music industry and shooting shows and bands. I am into amateur astronomy and surfing too.
YOUR PERSONAL STORY WITH PHOTOGRAPHY IN 12 WORDS.
My interaction with the beauty and magnificence radiating from all surrounding life.
WHAT ARE YOUR SUPERPOWERS AN WEAKNESSES ( AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM)?
Superpowers are not to be revealed! I am patient, optimistic, and caring. Sounds cheesy, but the way we authentically interact with each other is everything. That has been key in working in the photographic field, especially when you need access or need to deal with people to get the job done. Weaknesses...personal work. I just never make enough time for myself to shoot personal projects. I try to fit them in around commercial work, and it’s tough. So many ideas that I have just sit. I need to be way better about that.
WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO THE WORK YOU SHOOT?
I honestly enjoy doing something different every day. I am fortunate that the majority of my clients resonate with me personally. I establish very good long term relationships with them. Seeing new and amazing spaces, meeting unique people from different walks of life, and being out and about with this work is very enjoyable. We don’t live in a bubble, so we need to cherish and enjoy where we are at and who we are around. Photography opens some unique doors, and walking into the lives and stories of others, and having the privilege to capture that and help them express their vision is a wonderful thing.
WHERE DO YOU THINK THE WISDOM AND INSTINCT FOR A GOOD PHOTOGRAPH COMES FROM?
It comes from letting go of yourself. We need to let go of our concepts, and ideas, and judgments, and fears, and prior experiences, and see everything new, in the current moment, for what it is. Only then can we see. And of course a little synchronicity from the universe helps. That perfect cloud bank...the unexpected backlit mist, the stranger walking by in just the right spot, the cars parked in the right colors… we can’t plan that stuff. We have to be receptive, in tune, aware, and open, though. So when the magic all comes together, we are able to hit shutter. Good planning helps too...at least for the items we are in control of.
THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE AS A PHOTOGRAPHER? HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN YOURSELF IN TROUBLE?
I don’t do much crazy in my line of work. I’ve only gotten escorted off a location once, in my first year. Actually, my friend and I were scouting a location and security nixed that because they saw us taking scouting shots. We did get a permit to shoot though once that location ended up making the cut.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHERE IS THE SOCIAL BARRIER BETWEEN THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND THE SUBJECT?
That depends on the subject and photographer and their communication. The right communication can eliminate all barriers. It comes down to the situation too, proper judgement, proper respect, and why you are there to begin with.
WHAT ANNOYS YOU THE MOST IN THIS PROFESSION?
People always seem to think you are a terrorist. I get police called on me all the time when shooting buildings. Honestly people...a large tripod, a computer on another tripod, a wooden camera, badging and access passes, safety vests, gear bags, lighting, assistants… does this all add up to a very good disguise for terror? Really? The police always get a good laugh and have always been very respectful to not take time away from my job especially when light is falling once I give them permits, papers, identification, etc…
I do have one other thing too...it’s not an annoyance, but it is heartbreaking. I have shot many portraits and all too often I see people that have serious self-image issues. So much comes up in a session, even if it’s a brief five minute corporate portrait. And it is never from people you would expect. No matter how amazing an image you can make, people just reflect that which is hurting inside onto how they see themselves. The things I have heard in a session are amazing. I often wish people could see themselves the way I see them, or the way they truly are...and not how they feel they are. As an image creator, dealing with people’s self image can be a very fragile walk, and total care and respect and compassion are required. And a good re-toucher sometimes.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CAMERA BAG?
A Lumu lighter meter of course! Shooting interiors for a large part of my work means I deal with a lot of different light sources and colors. The color meter and filter function is my life saver. I waited day in and day out from the moment I put money down on Kickstarter. So one bag has a ton of color correction gels, stands, speedlights, strobes, LED lights, gaffers tapes, painters tape, grip stuff, etc…. I use a big mix of tools. My other bag is 2 kits at the moment. One kit is made up of the Olympus E-M1 mkII and a bunch of their pro lenses. The other kit is a Cambo tech camera with a phase one sensor and some Hasselblad H pieces in case I need to shoot a detail or portrait with the Phase. I also have a full 360-panoramic setup from Really Right Stuff that I’ve calibrated to use with all my gear. I love it.
HOW DOES YOUR EQUIPMENT AFFECT YOUR PROCESS?
The color meter has greatly shortened my process when lighting since I don’t need to do as many tests to get colors and gels matching right. The tech cam lets me get perspective right in camera. It’s slow and takes a lot of light often times. The Olympus has changed my world. So many features and functions that let me work more efficiently. I’ve been loving it.
IF YOU COULD CARRY ONLY 4 PIECES OF EQUIPMENT TO A PARALLEL UNIVERSE (NO PHOTO EQUIPMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE) FOR A YEAR, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
1. Singh-Ray Polarizer. Always necessary. 2. Either a an E-M1mkII with the 12-40 PRO, or the best 35mm and 135mm equivalent lenses. I’m always split between two good primes or an excellent standard zoom. 3. Big beefy carbon tripod. 4. Instax printer. Gotta share the love.
WHEN DO YOU RELY ON YOUR INSTRUMENTS AND WHEN ON YOUR FEELINGS?
Equipment needs to work. It is a tool. If I need a hammer and all I have is a screwdriver...I could potentially use the screwdriver as a hammer. Good luck using the hammer as a screwdriver in the inverse scenario. Bottom line is, I expect my equipment to do the job they are made to do. Feelings should always be relied on. That is how we see, that is how we decide where to set up. That is how we decide when to hit the shutter, etc… And when I say feelings, I mean intuition...not emotions. Intuition is key.
PEARLS OF WISDOM FOR FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHERS TO-BE?
Get over yourself. Learn to love the process and not be so tied to the end results. Galleries, clients, money, equipment, “good images,” “getting the shot,” … none of it matters in the end. Photography can really be a powerful way to express. It is more about what we have to say, and even more so what others have to say. And if we can do that through photography, then everything else will fall into place. Just don’t be tied to how that happens or the details. And if it doesn’t come together for you, that is ok too.
YOUR TOP 4 CURRENT PHOTOGRAPHERS
Susan Middleton: http://www.susanmiddleton.com
Beth Moon: http://bethmoon.com/
Patric Ullaeus (video style primarily): http://revolver.se/
David Duchemin: http://davidduchemin.com/
LINKS OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE!
I started a new endeavor on the side of shooting. I realize a lot of people seem to struggle when transitioning to Olympus gear, but really find liberation when shooting once they’ve adjusted. So I started a blog dedicated to helping people out. I’ve also made some presets and ebooks and such. Stuff that has really helped me and I use every day in editing. It’s actually become a wonderful way to correspond with photographers from all over the world. The stories people share and the conversations we have is amazing. Lots more to come from that site. You can check it out at http://unlockingolympus.com
This is also my 10th anniversary shooting commercially for a living, so a huge thank you to everyone who supports what I do. It is really amazing, and it is all because of clients that trust and care for the relationships we create. I can be found at tonyventourisphotography.com and am available for assignments in the US and abroad.