Tim Tadder Phlearn’s Interview Just For You
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Tim Tadder is 6 feet 7 inches tall, he has a beard, 4 bicycles, and a brown dog named Bailey. He was born in Baltimore, schooled in Virginia (BS Mathematics, he’s a geek) and Ohio (MA in Visual Communications, also an artist). Tim worked for newspapers in Baltimore, Colorado, and San Diego as a photojournalist before turning his sights on commercial and editorial photography in 2005. Since then he has been commissioned to make heroic portraits of some of the world’s most interesting humans, for example George W Bush, (liberal Tim did want to have a Beer with him…) and Bill Gates (he cringed at the sight of his iPhone and mac book pro).
Personal highlights include working with Michael Phelps, Kid Rock, Ice Cube, and Tom Brady (Tim’s wife keeps a copy of the photo in her wallet, is that weird?).
Best known for his powerful portraits and high action intense sports imagery Tim has enjoyed the privilege of working with great creatives creating award winning campaigns (Communication Arts Photo Annuals, Graphis Golds, Kelly Awards, Archive Showcases, Addy’s etc) for global brands like Adidas, Budweiser, McDonalds, Under Armour, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Gatorade, Powerade, Sears, Craftsman, Mercedes Benz, Bud Light, Microsoft, Sony, Gillette and many more.
Currently calling Southern California home, Tim refuses to buy a winter coat, preferring, as his daughters say, let his bear like fur protect him from the elements as he travels to and from in search of the best creative campaigns and the most fun people to work with. (Taken from www.timtadder.com)
Tim is an amazing photographer with a quirky personality who has a ton of knowledge and wisdom to pass down to us photographers. Please join us in this extensive interview as Tim answers all of my questions, brings us behind the scenes of an image of his choice, and does it in a humorous, uplifting way. This is an interview you don’t want to miss.
Before starting a career as a commercial photographer you worked as a photojournalist. What sparked your interest in photography and photojournalism?
I did a lot of travelling. I lived abroad for numerous years and I was living in South America. I was doing a lot of high altitude mountaineering. So I was taking all of these images of my travels and my adventures in the Andes and the experiences that we came across. They were just visual diaries basically and documentary photography of my experiences.
Within that sort of way of using photography to document my experiences, I started to learn more about documentary photography. Obviously that leads into the transition of photojournalism. When I came back from South America I actually went to graduate school for photojournalism and I got a masters degree in visual communications from Ohio University, the school of visual communications. It was an unbelievable program!
Ya know, the reason I went there was because the former picture editor of National Geographic was the head of the school, and the National Geographic Society has been the benchmark for photojournalism or “picture stories” so to speak, of national history and mountaineering and high off places and ya know, crazy visual adventures throughout the world! Then I figured well, that would be a great place to go to learn how to get involved with that type of photography. So I went into the program and I learned a tremendous amount. It was an unbelievable experience.
After that program I moved, I started working at a newspaper in Colorado. Because that’s the sort of natural progression to get immediate work is to go from photojournalism to newspapers — and I worked with the newspaper industry from 2002-2005.
I did some picture stories and normal assignments and features and things like that for the news world. And that was great! It’s just I started to get a desire to do more and more creative stuff from there.
Why did you decide to switch gears and put your head in the commercial photography game instead?
I’d like to say that it was the desire to express the creativity and to materialize the vision as opposed to document the vision. I felt as a photojournalist I had to wait and interpret and be there to capture the image. To capture the image I had to take a lot of time and energy to make sure I was there when it happened. I had to commit to the story and commit to the process, maybe I’m just a little bit impatient!
So I started to get the desire to control the content as opposed to anticipate and wait to document the process. It just became, hey let’s explore the opportunity of creating the moment as opposed to capturing the moment.
You’ve been commissioned to make heroic pictures of the world’s most interesting humans, for example Bill Gates and George W Bush.
Can you tell us about your experience working with these people?
Every one of these shoots where you photograph somebody with quote on quote “celebrity status” there’s these different warnings that you always get. Like, with Bill Gates, “Hey can you not pull out your iPhone, and can you make sure you’re discreet about the use of your mac computer?” and you’re like, “uhhhh, okay”. Ya know, and that’s just an example of “hey don’t annoy your subject”.
And with George W Bush there was absolutely nothing that I had to worry about or do and I was unbelievably appalled by how relaxed and completely unguarded my access was. Ya know, where I was alone in a room, with myself and an assistant, with George W Bush! I’m sure there were people watching from cameras or where ever but it was just like a conference room with the 3 of us, and I thought that was super trippy.
Where normally when we’re on a set there’s a whole entourage of people to make sure that everything goes right. I guess it varies from person to person and at the end of the day our job is to make a compelling image of these people, and at that level they understand that this is a part of their process and part of their media persona, and part of their requirements of their job in order to keep a public persona- and I’m a facilitator of that. Everyone’s usually pretty cooperable, I’m professional, they’re professionals, we’re here to do a job. My job is not to burn my access of my clients and understand that I’m a part of a process and not the process.
I think that some photographers lose their place in that they materialize themselves as bigger than the person, or their ego gets in the way then all of a sudden it becomes a weird dynamic that you’re trying to get the picture for you, when really it’s a picture for them. At this point I don’t even think about it in that way anymore.
I used to kind of get anxious about the people that I shoot but I definitely don’t worry about that anymore.
Being a superstar yourself, you shoot quite a lot of superstars. People like Michael Phelps, Kid Rock, Ice Cube, and Tom Brady. How differently do you have to approach this kind of shoot?
If I’m going to go shoot something personal or creative for myself I control the clock, I control the creative, I control the access, I’m paying for it normally, so ya know when I’m shooting one of these people I have a limited amount of time, a limited amount of access, I have to be careful as to how I communicate with the subjects. I have to be very clear as to what I want and how I want it, and I have to always never let them see me sweat so to speak. I always have to be in charge and have a very clear vision as to what I’m trying to get. I need to make sure that all of my equipment is working and that everything is locked down and 100% dialled in. I need to be giving clear instruction, and that I’m maintaining a positive sort of energy, so during the process they’re excited! They’re into the process, they feel like their time is not being wasted, ya know those types of things.
These guys get shot all the time and by all levels of photographers. Whether it’s the local newspaper shooting them or whether it’s Martin Schoeller shooting for a Vanity Fair cover. And for the most part they don’t know the difference between one photographer to the next. Really, unless it’s somebody bigger than they are like Annie Lebovits, she sometimes tends to be bigger than her subjects. You know, they don’t really know or care.
Sometimes they have seen my work, which is really cool. When they have seen my work and are excited to be shot by me, and they reference images off of my website and they’re more of a collaborator. That’s amazing! And sometimes that happens and that changes the whole dynamic of it.
And sometimes it’s clear that this guy is following a schedule of his day, and I get an hour or two hours or three hours of his day and he wants to get through it and move on to the next thing in his day. You know it depends.
When I shot Ice Cube he was familiar with my work, familiar with my website, had referenced images off of it, was totally collaborative, was excited to work with me, he really thought I did great work, and he would do anything that I asked!
Then 20 minutes later I shot another celebrity rapper and this guy clearly didn’t give a shit, he just didn’t care. He just wanted to get through it. It can be that dynamic of a change. Between you know somebody who is into the process or not into the process. And you know it’s my job to gage that energy and to spin it the way that needs to happen. And sometimes with those types of people I know I’m going to get some of the best stuff within the first 5 or 10 minutes and then the rest of the day is really just nothing. I need to make sure like ‘alright this person doesn’t care about the process or is not into the process they just want to get through it’. So I know that they’re going to give me their best effort up front and then they’re gonna be over it. So let’s make sure I get the key images up front.
But with someone like Ice Cube I can go through something and say ‘hey I wanna try this’ and they’ll be more interactive in the process.
Recently you’ve began to use water as a main element in your photography. We see it first in your series “Fish Heads” and more recently in your extremely successful series “Water Wigs”
Where did your idea for the series Water Wigs come from?
How much experimenting did you have to do to get the shots right?
I felt like I was known for a sort of visual identity previously. I had a series of imagery, a collection of imagery, a portfolio that I have been doing for years and years and years and you know people would call me for a style, call me for my look, call me for my rug portraits that were tough and gritty and had a certain color palette and a certain style of lighting. So one of my goals from last year was to shoot enough personal projects to explore things that were very different from what I was doing. And to see if any of those opportunities could be accepted on a large scale from a creative standpoint.
I use this analogy because a lot of people ask this question like ‘where does this come from? why do you do this?’ and it’s not as simple as hey I saw something and it inspired me to do something else. It was more a part of a process and a mindset that I was in.
It started the very 3rd or 4th day of the year where I started testing things that were different from anything that I’d ever done before. Just kind of trying new things. And I did about a dozen tests last year that were all different and crazy and wacky and a lot of them never saw the light of day, but it was part of the creative process of failing in order to succeed. So I went through this process and we started building a whole new body of work that was really unique and different and to challenge the visual landscape out there that I think has started to all blend together. I’m always trying to be on that edge of delivering image content that is dramatically different from what is in our visual hemisphere so to speak. You know there’s a lot of unbelievably great work out there but from the untrained eye there’s very subtle differences in it and the content creator is not necessarily easily identified. So to speak from a stylistic standpoint, when you look at some great artists throughout history and time what made them so great was that their style was so iconic that you immediately picked out who they were because their voice was so strong and clear. It wasn’t muddled by all of the other voices that were around it.
So you know as my voice became more drowned by the voices that are creating cool work, I felt that I needed to do something that was so different that it would allow my voice as a creative person to be heard again. And to be noticed for groundbreaking creativity.
I felt that we had over time created a lot of images that had a very strong consistent style and a very strong format but ya know more and more people have mastered the style, and quite frankly some of them do it better than I do it. Then you know, your voice gets lost.
So, Water Wigs was part of a process of coming up with imagery that was more about using your brain then using your tricky tools. More about the idea and creating something visually that maybe didn’t exist before than about some ‘trick’.
And so we came up with the Fishheads concept because quite frankly I’ve never seen anything like it before. And part of the creative process was to combine things that don’t necessarily exist or are not normally combined.
So people in a fish tank don’t normally combine. So we combined those.
So water balloons and hair, or water balloons and throwing water balloons at peoples heads aren’t things that normally combine. You know? So sort of, taking things and combining them to create something that visually had not been materialized. You know it just wasn’t there. So Fish Heads was very well accepted just because it was visually unique. It got a lot of eyeballs to pay attention to our work and say “hey what’s this guy up to?” and then we followed it up with Water Wigs as part of that combination.
I had this intern and I was trying to task him with something to do in the studio, and I was like, hey I have this sound trigger, you know we figured out the laser trigger with fish heads, so let’s see what we can do with the sound triggers.
We started looking online on applications of sound triggers and we found these people that had taken water balloons and sort of photographed water balloons exploding and it looked cool. I don’t really photograph water balloons, but I photograph people, so why don’t we put people and water balloons together? What would that look like? So we got out this mannequin that we have in the studio and we started throwing the water balloons and the mannequin and shooting it and seeing what it looked like. You know one thing lead to another with our testing and all of a sudden we were like ‘wow, that looks like hair’ and then we said okay, well, if it looks like hair we need to shoot people without hair in order for it to replace their hair, which is sort of where the bald men came from.
So we went on Craigslist to try and cast these bald men and we started doing it. We started doing about 4 people a night for a week and we’d have them come in after hours, and we’d just throw water balloons at em. We did about 20 people, and I ended up using about 15 of them. Every time that we got a good one we’d be like ‘okay we got that one! Now how else can we twist the balloon or change it? How else can we make it look?” and then we just explored it.
It was very simple. Super simple. Never underestimate the power of simplicity, or the sophistication of simplicity. Apple has done that beautifully with their design and advertising. Sometimes the most easiest, quirkiest ideas can be the most powerful and affecting. We had over a million people see the images within 24 hours of being published. And that was an incredible amount of exposure and people absolutely just loved them! And we’ve done tv shows and countless interviews about this and it was a very simple process. Like, throw water balloons at people. Very simple.
And you know I feel very unbelievably honoured that we were able to come up with something that people found so interesting and so exciting visually. Cause you know there’s so much incredible stuff out there and there’s so much unbelievably powerful imagery out there– and to gain recognition off of something so simple, is kinda funny.
How exactly do you shoot “Water Wigs?”
Is there any particular person you would love to shoot for the “water wigs” series if you had the chance?
I don’t know, I mean, anybody who wants to do it. I just like taking pictures.
Do I have a burning desire to photograph one individual over another? Not really. My most enjoyable moments of my day, or my week, or my year or my month is when I’m behind the camera. If somebody wanted me to do it, and hired me to do it, and they made a compelling subject then I’d want to do it. I could think of famous bald people, but just because you’re famous doesn’t mean your more important than any other individual on this planet.
A lot of people put pictures of famous people in their portfolios because somehow they think that it’s a better picture. That doesn’t necessarily make a better picture, that just means you had the opportunity to photograph somebody important. Quote on quote important.
Ya know, maybe somebody exotic like Natalie Portman when she was bald for that movie. You know something like that, something that’s unique.
To be honest with you, what I really wanted to do which I never really got to do with the whole water wigs thing is I wanted to photograph chemotherapy patients that were struggling with chemotherapy and had lost all of their hair. I wanted to create these images that made people pay attention to the incredible fight that cancer is and the suffering that people go through. I just wanted to create something with purpose with the imagery.
I went through all the channels and sort of tried to get that to happen and it just became too cumbersome that I finally was just like there’s too much to put into it so I just can’t fight this battle.
I just thought it would make an interesting collection of images. There was the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer and we made a bunch of pink images that were fun and not making fun of these people, but presenting them as these heroic warriors who have lost all of their hair, and here’s a way to gain notice to a cause and make people think twice about it and present it in a startling way. But they never materialized. Something like that would be a bit more important to me. To do something with purpose with the imagery and to take the viral nature, and turn it from ‘hey look at me’ to ‘hey can you help this cause? can we do something more powerful with imagery?’ That was something I really wanted to do, I just wasn’t able to get it off the ground.
How long is your process of creating an image?
This is something that is unique about what you guys do and is different from what I do. For example, you guys sit around and think of ideas to come up with and shoot, where the majority of my career is where someone else comes to me with an idea and says ‘we want to shoot this, how do we do it?’ and then we begin that process.
So it depends on how complex that idea is, for how long it is to shoot. Sometimes it’s as simple as we wanna make really punchy, vivid, clean images of our athletes on white. Okay, we can do that it’s super simple.
And other times it’s like ‘hey we want to create this scene of these soldiers storming a building, and it needs to be all burnt out and blah blah blah’, so you know sometimes it’s very complicated and we have to begin the production process and try to get production working on it.
For personal projects, I usually think about them, and it takes me months to get them off the ground because I’m trying to balance them with other projects. Very rarely do I have a week where its like “oh I have nothing going on this week so I can go and think of something, and pull it together and shoot it!” No, mostly it’s like ‘well we have these 4 projects, and then we’re doing post production on this project” and so you know, I’m just treading water a lot of times just to like keep my head up from drowning.
I wish I had more help to help me manage these things but that’s just the reality of it, but I guess to make an impossible answer short, how long do I spend on water wigs? We came up with the intent to do the project on a Monday. By Thursday we had tested the mannequin and the water balloons and we determined what we needed, and then probably by the next Monday or Tuesday we were shooting it. And that’s a very simple idea. We spent about 2 days kind of figuring out what we needed to do with the light and how we needed to position the light, what the flash duration needed to be, all of the technical things on it. And then it was really just hey! What kind of crazy people can we get to show up so we can throw balloons at them? So you know, finding subjects sometimes can be the longest part of a process.
So right now I’m working on a post production process, so I’ll come up with the backgrounds and how I want to put it all together, and that might take 2 or 3 days. So it all depends on the image and what’s driving me and how complicated it is.
I don’t necessarily have a set routine like, ‘this is how I do it’, it’s more like ‘this is what I feel needs to get done’ so I just kind of do it that way. And it seems to be successful and it seems to work for me. Maybe I could improve on that by being a little more structured but I tend to be a not super structured individual. I feel the creative, as opposed to I follow a procedure.
In the next 3 questions Tim takes us behind the scenes of “2XU Human Performance Multiplied“.
How was the concept developed for “2XU Human Performance Multiplied”?
This was for a small client project with very little budget, I had to “steal the location” by going out to a national park and grabbing a road image at sunset. We got a really nice scene right off the bat. The concept was to shoot this triathlon speed suit in a heroic way that showed how these products make one 2 X U or twice as better than you… So we wanted an intense looking action shoot, but they did not have the resources for a location shoot, so we had to approach it this way…
How was it lit?
The lighting on this was very simple. A strong back lit key, which was a large silver parabolic back left of subject, with a soft front fill, We basically just matched the light of the scene onto the body, trying to create a real looking shot that way just more stylized. So this image was basically two lights. with a fill card, simple is always best
How much work in post processing went into this photo?
You can see the before and after in the screen shots attached…I spent about 5 hours on this, the hardest part was the isolation of the bike and the rest was just toning and shadow building. I am not the best Photoshop guy when it comes to super complexity, but I would like to think I do a good job with light and shadow and create good eye flow.
What’s on your gear list?
I shoot with a medium format camera. It’s a Phase system with a P65 plus back. I have Schneider leaf shutter lenses. I have a Nikon D800 system with a couple of lenses that I use. Then I have the Canon 5D Mark II system that I use. So I have sort of both things happening there with Canon and Nikon and Phase. It all depends what the job is.
Really I bought the Nikon because it filled a missing hole in my bag which was a wide angle large format auto focus system. Where as the Phase is not an auto focus system, and I shoot a lot of wide angle, and the 36 megapixels of the Nikon is a lot better than the 22 of the Canon, so I just said I need that lens, so I bought that system.
Believe it or not, it’s a lot cheaper to have the Nikon D800 and a wide angle lens then it is to buy the single wide angle lens for the Phase. So, I sort of went that route, and I didn’t want to get rid of all my Canon stuff cause I’m sure Canons gonna come out with some bitchin’ camera in a year or two and I’m gonna want that camera.
So I sort of just have it all in case I need it. I use the right tool for the job. And I am a total firm believer in using the best tools that you can to create what you need to create. Whether I need to rent it or buy it or find it, it’s just a tool to help my vision come out. So it doesn’t really matter what I use as long as I’m using the right tool.
As for lighting, I used to use a lot of Profoto, I still own a lot of Profoto equipment, but I’ve lately found that the Einsteins have an unbelievable short flash duration and are unbelievably easy to travel with and although they are not as sturdy as the Profotos; they’re sturdy enough, and deliver a good quality of light. And the economics of them just can’t be beat, so I’ve been using them a lot and have had a great success with them. Thats what I shot the Water Wigs with because the Profoto’s weren’t fast enough. They weren’t fast enough to stop the light. So I’ve been really into those lights, and the value of them is unbelievable and the customer service is off the charts. I had a problem with one of my transmitters, and the guy calls me back and says hey we’re testing it out! And you know, I’ve never gotten any kind of service like that from any other vendors. So, I’m really happy with that!
I use Photoshop for editing, Lightroom for cataloging, and Capture for ingestion– tethering and stuff like that. I edit with a Wacom tablet, I’ve had it for about 5 or 6 years, it’s unbelievable, I can’t believe I ever used a mouse, but I did for a long time.
I use tons of different modifiers, it’s just what feels right. I could want a soft light, or a hard light, a controlled light, that type of light, this type of feel. What I plan is just what I visualize and how I feel about it. Again, I believe that you can’t take too much of a technical approach to creating art. If it’s too technical it will be void of a soul. It will not have anything that really hooks you.
The beauty is the imperfection. Or the angst of good art is in it’s tension, where it’s not totally technically perfect. I think a lot of young photographers miss that — and I don’t mean young in age I mean young in experience. Their work is really good, but just being technically proficient does not mean a great photo is made. Understand the rules, but then go out and break them.
Is there any piece of equipment you just can’t live without?
There’s nothing I have that I would say is indispensable. As long as I have a camera and some cards I feel like I can make a compelling image.
I would use the available light, use what lights available. Use what you have! If you have a Holga, and it was $19 then make cool pictures, if you have an iPhone and thats what you need to make pictures with then make good pictures.
It’s not the tool, it’s not the camera that makes the image, it’s the photographer. The car doesn’t win the Indy 500 the driver wins the Indy 500. The thing to remember is that having the latest greatest piece of equipment does not make you any better of a photographer. It just means that your bank account is probably smaller.
Where do you draw the line of digital retouching? Is there anything you just won’t touch with Photoshop?
Well there’s a saying that I have and it goes, you can only polish a turd so much, in the end it’s still a turd.
I see a lot of people over Photoshopping bad images to begin with, and it just makes it worse, you know? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Don’t try to ‘bring in the hand of God’ into an image, and I see a lot of that that lately, and I see a lot of this overly added texture to an image or things that are just too much.
Where do I draw the line? I try to stay within the realm of photorealism as opposed to photo fantasy. But that’s just my approach, I kind of just use Photoshop to put things together that production-wise wouldn’t be possible.
Also I use Photoshop to you know, bend physics a bit. The camera can only capture so much; and the camera does not capture the world as we see it, the camera captures the world as the dynamic range is limited to the capturing sensor. So sometimes we need to use Photoshop in order to remove the limitations of the camera and to bring back the world as we see it.
So that’s where a lot of my work comes in, I sort of create these images that are more as the world you see that are vivid, and rich with detail and full of depth, that you sometimes lose in the camera when you take a picture, and it sorta flattens everything out. The dynamic range sort of ruins the scene, you know?
So, will I not touch anything? I probably won’t touch anything that are bad images and I’ll just put those away, and say that I missed and failed. You know, I don’t wanna do that? I don’t want to waste time polishing images that aren’t worth polishing.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes from weird things, you know? Whether it’s the desire to bring to life something that is kicking around in your head that you are curious as to how it might look; or seeing something on a tv show and saying “ah you know that would look better if we did this this and this” and bringing something like that to life. Or seeing something in pop culture and realizing that there’s a way to poke fun at it or twist it around.
Inspiration comes from everything we see and do, and again, for me — it’s a great question because it makes me think about these things that I don’t think about a lot! I don’t think about where my inspiration comes from a lot, I kind of just have this need to share things visually and that’s where things materialize from. When I feel I need to say things then I go through this creative expansion of new work. Lately, I really haven’t felt the need to really say a whole lot, so I’ve just been doing, and haven’t really been creating a ton of personal projects. I do have a bunch that I want to create and get off the ground but I’ve been busy with other projects. I think it’s just that inner knot that forms in your chest that says to me, “hey get out and share your voice!” And when I do that I look at the Internet, I look at art, I look at pop culture and I kind of bring together pieces of things and I say okay this is what I want to share, this is my interpretation of now. And so I do that!
Like the Tron thing that we did, the Future Sports project was very much that.
Seeing I’m a very sports guy, I like sports, I see sports evolving, and I see equipment every year evolving and it’s getting more scientific and intense, and I started to visualize you know- what’s it gonna look like in 20 years? Where is technology and sports sort of going to evolve to? So rather than taking sports now and trying to make technical sports now, let’s push it outside of that. We started to look at all different types of imagery and things that were cool and neat. We thought LED technology is getting really sophisticated. It’s showing up in all of these crazy places and we found these people that made LED light wheels for bikes, so we were like, okay, let’s evolve that. How can we apply that to sports?
So we created this biker image. So we kind of took what’s happening in technology with what’s happening in sports and we put these two things together that don’t normally exist.
Again, back to that point of applying pieces of culture and life that don’t necessarily belong together, and putting them together, and visualizing that. So that’s an example of where my inspiration comes from. It comes from an idea, then it comes from culture,then it comes from science and technology, then sort of just bringing those things together to create something that is not repeating what’s out there.
In a lot of peoples books it’s like, here’s a different picture of somebody running, here’s a different picture of somebody training, or here’s a different picture of somebody standing on a beach. You know, and that’s cool, and that works, but for me? That’s not enough. For me I wanna be like, how can I look at the beach totally differently? How can I look at somebody running completely differently? How can I present it in a way that I’ve never seen it presented before.
That’s what I try for, that’s the goal. If that’s the goal, if that’s the standard then hopefully I’ll always be creating images that make people think.
What was the most interesting assignment you’ve ever gotten?
I’ve had unbelievable fortune to photograph and work with super interesting people, super interesting concepts, I definitely pinch myself sometimes and go “Is this really happening?”
I’m a really big karma believer, and I’m a real firm believer of doing the right thing, simplest to say is Karmas a bitch, if you screw people you get screwed.
I kind of feel as if I’m very blessed, and I feel like wow I must of done something really good for somebody because I feel like I’ve got a lot of good fortune. And in that respect I’ve had a lot of really great assignments. The stranger the better, you know, someone hired me to photograph chameleons one day, and I photographed chameleons for three days doing all kinds of weird stuff and that was totally bizarre! I had 19 chameleons running around my studio and it was crazy.
And recently I was hired to photograph puppies and kittens.
Then I got hired to photograph George Bush and his henchmen like Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice and all those people, and that was a super interesting assignment, super random and it was like a very personal thing. It wasn’t a big thing where I had to travel around with a big agency. It was just me and an assistant and we went to these peoples houses! We went to Karl Rove’s house and sat down in his kitchen and talked to him, and you know, this is totally bizarre! Then we went to Condoleezza Rice’s office and just chilled out with her, and went to George Bush’s office and spent time with him, and went to Bill Gate’s house and spent time with him and it was super bizarre!
I mean there are tons of assignments, I wouldn’t say that one trumps another, it all kind of blends together into this career of super interesting things that I feel super blessed and honoured and privileged to be a part of, and I hope that I’m taking every opportunity that I can to do the best job that I can, so I can use this gift that I’ve been given to my full potential to share what I’m supposed to share.
What is your favourite image that you’ve ever created?
I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to create so many images that I cherish that it would be too hard to single out just one. Its like saying which one of your children do you like the most, it is impossible to single out just one. I get really excited about new ones, so maybe saying which is your most recent favorite image….In that case….I like this one…it’s recent and a bit brighter and more aspirational…. (below to the left)
In August you will be doing a “Google Talk.” All of the details are not in place yet, but what is this talk going to be focused on?
The importance of being a black sheep in a creative world. Be willing to stand out and separate yourself from the herd or the flock. While it’s good to understand and have a mastery of the visual tools that we all need to create good content it’s more important to use those tools in your own way to create unique content. And in doing so you need to be willing to make yourself a black sheep.
You need to be willing to make yourself so different that people notice you. Not because you’re skilled enough to show proficiency in something but because you’re a visionary and you’re unique enough in order to communicate something extremely powerful to people. I was talking to a photographer last night at a Behance get together and you know, he was showing me his book and I was looking at it and I kind of just said “you can take pictures that’s clear, but there’s nothing in this book that makes me say that I have to hire you because there’s nothing unique about your vision”. It’s technically proficient and its filled with images that show your understanding of light and composition but there’s nothing in it that makes me go, ‘wow you’re pushing the envelope of creativity’ and ‘you’re making me think differently about visual aesthetics’, or ‘your challenging my notion of what you can do with a camera or what you can do with a 2 dimensional image’ — you know, those types of things. That’s the problem with a lot of creatives is that their portfolio is filled with images that are indistinguishable from another photographers portfolio.
By the individual artist creator, yeah they can distinguish it, but if we take an audience or someone who knows nothing about photography or who the photographer is and you lay down 20 images and they’re like “yeah I guess the same photographer took them”. You know, I don’t wanna be that guy. I want you to put 50 images down on a table and I want the non-educated photo enthusiast to be able to walk up and be like ‘All these images are different from those” cause that’s the black sheep you’re going to notice in a flock of similar aesthetics, the one’s that are different.
You may not like them but you’re going to notice them and in a really crowded visual marketplace our job is to stand out and be noticed, and thats what our job is to do for our clients is to stand up and get noticed.
This talk will be available under Tim’s name once it is uploaded to his Youtube Channel.
How do you balance your work life and your personal life?
I have pushed myself away from an addiction of trying to be the best photographer/retoucher, into the now being the best husband and father, the reality is that the people I love the most, care nothing about where my work stacks up in the industry. So the choice has been easy for me. While I strive always to do my best, and create the best work I can, I no longer feel that I am out of balance. My family comes first, and the rest falls into place. I work when I can, and I am there for my family as much as I can.
Do you have any advice to offer photographers who are just beginning to enter the profession?
Keep your mouth shut, put your head down and keep working, let your images speak for you, cause no one is hiring you for your words.