Sid Ceaser is a fine art photographer whose approach to his craft, wonderful images, and out going personality led to me requesting an interview.
We hear the term “fine art” thrown around quite a bit so it should be interesting to get a perspective on the subject from a fine art photographer.
JRP: Thanks Sid for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about your photography.
Sid Ceaser: Absolutely. I’m glad to be able to share and discuss my work and art in general.
JRP: Sid when did you get your start in photography? Do you have formal training?
Sid Ceaser: I have a BFA in Fine Art Photography. Long before that, as a child, I was always doing something art-related. Most of the time I would spend either reading comic books, or making movies and taking polaroid-action-scenes with my action figures and puppets. I spent a lot of time inside my own head when I was a kid. I did that all through high school, and then after graduating I took some time off because I wasn’t ready for college yet.
Most of my 20’s was spent doing the dreams of a late-teenager, working at mom and pop record stores, reviewing video games, etc. As time went on, I would always go back to art photographing ,drawing, and creating things.
Art has always been my passion and finally I decided to buckle down and attended the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s BFA program. I graduated cum-laude in 2004. To the best of my knowledge, I was also the first underclassman to become represented by a fine art gallery before graduating.
In late 2004 I established my own studio in an old mill building along the Nashua River and I’ve been trying to carve out a name for myself by doing commercial portraiture and my personal work when time allows.
JRP: Why take the designation of fine art photographer? Why that genre? For you what makes a photographer a fine artist?
Sid Ceaser: I think it really dates back to all the time I spent learning my craft of photography. For me, photography takes me into this “zone” of sorts. I put all my concentration on what I’m doing. I try to plan things out from the pre-visualization stage to post-production stage, and all the way to producing a final matted framed product.
I think anyone who is really dedicated to their craft can fall into a “fine art” classification. Granted, the term “fine art” is tossed around endlessly and no two people seem to have the same definition of it. For me, its a simple generalization that I can use to classify a work or photograph I’ve dedicated a lot of time on to perfect. The “fine” in “fine art” for me simply means a precise, dedicated concentration on the learning of my craft.
There are lots of disagreements with why some people call themselves “fine artists” or “artisans”. Hell, there are University classes full of people ready to fight each other over these terms.
I think we are at an interesting period with the advent of digital photography. I meet so many people that only have experience with digital cameras. They don’t have any historical knowledge of where photography came from. They see an albumen print and say “I can do that in Photoshop in less time” when they can’t. There is a lack of understanding where photography has been that is affecting the work of some of these people.
I guess to put it simply, I classify myself as a fine art photographer because I really try to express my craft through my work. I try to present a professional, clean, exhibition worthy image every time. Well, I try to at least.
JRP: Looking at your list of credits and associations it is clear that networking and community involvement is crucial to you and your efforts.
Sid Ceaser: When you get sucked into the world of something like a fine arts program at a University, you surround yourself with hundreds of other students and professors. All of whom are there for the same reason, to expand their growth as an artist and further their craft.
For those four or five years you are immersed in practice, critiques, networking, and making friendships that can last for the remainder of your life.
When you leave that educational circle and get your diploma, suddenly you are standing in a barren wasteland with nothing and nobody around you. That moment when you aren’t surrounded by your peers is a very delicate thread. Most alumni that I know all fall into the trappings of having to find jobs where they can’t incorporate their artistic creativity, and as a result work jobs that are not enriching their lives.
For me, the first important step after graduating was securing a studio work space. This way I had a dedicated area that I could always retreat to so I could create. That made all the difference in the world for me.
I believe that the Arts are very important and crucial to communities. Because of that I’ve tried to balance my art with other jobs that are art related.
In 2006 my girlfriend and I held an Art Sale out of our studio. We had over 65 works from 30+ artist friends with a large portion of the proceeds of each sale going to the local soup kitchen and shelter.
Last year I served as the Executive Director for a new local arts non-profit that was devoted to helping promote the Arts in my city and surrounding areas. We helped establish an open artist studios event that became very successful. We had some 40+ artists and venues showcasing the arts in my City. People were surprised that there were that many artists trying to make a living by selling their creative works.
Sadly, almost all of our funding was cut for 2008 and my position was dissolved.
I strongly believe a community isn’t complete without the arts. There needs to be strong support of it. Creating a support group of artists is important to help keep you motivated.
JRP: Give us an idea of the types of equipment you make use of in your image making.
Sid Ceaser: I was raised traditionally with film but over the last three or four years I’ve transitioned primarily to digital capture, and archival inkjet output.
I use Canon digital SLR bodies but I still like to use my Diana Plastic camera, a small plastic medium format toy camera made in the 1950’s. This camera is sort of the godfather to current plastic toy cameras like the Holga. I love that camera so much I named my studio after it.
I use strobe lighting but occasionally will use natural light. I do all of my own printing on Epson large format printers.
JRP: For digital work what kind of software do you use in your photographic workflow?
Sid Ceaser: For important jobs or for my personal work I shoot RAW and then convert to Adobe DNG. I use an eMac and Adobe Photoshop CS2.
When I process images like portraits, I try to do as little post-production as possible. Dodging, burning, the types of things I would do in a traditional wet-darkroom.
I own an Epson 4000 and an Epson 7600 that I produce my work on.
JRP: I became aware of you and your work via a post on Fred Miranda Forums. Are there other websites that you participate in to specifically showcase your work?.
Sid Ceaser: Occasionally I browse the Photo.net forums. Fred Miranda is a great place to watch interesting discussions in the PRO corner and the Lighting forums.
In this age of digital social internet networking I try to spread my fingers wide and make pages on Myspace, Facebook, etc. I try to view these as free advertising so its worth the 20 minutes or so to create a profile, add some images, and then let the page go. I have my personal website, and then I have a “hub” website under my studio name which links back to my personal site and my girlfriend’s website. She is also a phenomenal photographer in her own right. (www.saraprindiville.com)
Occasionally I will google my name to make sure I’m coming up in searches. The big problem is that there are so many forums to read, it can literally become a full time job unto itself.
JRP: Do you have any special projects that are on going at this time?
Sid Ceaser: I’m just gearing up for a new personal project that I’m hoping I can devote a lot of 2008 to. It will be a series of diptych portraits documenting players of the video game Halo 3. The first half of the project will be traditional portraits of the players as they are in real life in a studio setting. The second half of each set will be portraits of the players while they are online, inside the Halo 3 game as their players in their customized armor. I have a website set up that explains in more detail at www.thelastspartans.com.
JRP: Reflecting back, what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Sid Ceaser: Photograph what you love. I love people, so I love doing portraiture.
I’m a huge pop-culture, comic book, video game, and science fiction fan. I love projects like my anime “Portraits” series, or my forthcoming “Last Spartans” series.
One of my favorite photography professors (and someone that has become a very good friend) once explained it like this …
“Photography is a very personal and revealing process. You are taking an object, a person or a landscape, and you are saying I love what I’m looking at so much, and it is so interesting that it invokes a response or passion from me. I want to capture this moment and find a way to show it and share it with other people.”
“Don’t go out looking to capture images that will sell. Just photograph things that you are passionate about. Things that help show a small part of who you are, and reveals a little about yourself.”
JRP: What advice would you offer to a photographer looking to make their mark in the fine art market?
Sid Ceaser: The Fine Art Gallery market is a really tough thing. Don’t send portfolio’s to every gallery in the phone book. You really need to research every gallery and see if it will be a good match. You have to realize that galleries are there to not only support your work but to also make money. Find the ones that react strongly to your work. Nurture and develop a friendship with them. Something like that might limit you to only have one or two galleries but if the gallery really feels strongly about your work they become your strongest advocate.
Remember, it’s really tough right now because of the economy. Not many people have free cash to go and purchase artwork.
Make sure the portfolio you send is professional and has a theme throughout the 12 or so images. Don’t give them a potluck of images.
Become okay with getting rejected from galleries, or from other artists. One of the great things about a formal education at a University is that you can spend years building up a thick skin with critiques. Ninety percent of the time the person critiquing your work isn’t out to hurt your feelings.
Art is very subjective. There will be people or galleries that just aren’t interested in that kind of work. Some don’t like the color scheme or don’t like the subject matter. Some don’t like that they have to look at your work on a Saturday when they could be at home watching the ball-game. For every good response you get back be prepared for 50 negative responses.
Whatever you do, don’t take it personally.
JRP: Sid thanks again for sharing your thoughts and photography with us.
Sid Ceaser: Thank you so much for asking me to participate.