Spotlight Interview … Photographer Maynard Switzer

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JRP: Maynard Switzer is a photographer with a wide range of expertise. His images are saturated with definitive color and visually full of life. Please welcome him in what is sure to be a revealing interview.

Thanks Maynard for sharing some thoughts and ideas with JRP Blog.

Maynard Switzer: Thanks for having me.

JRP: Where is home for you?

Maynard Switzer: I am based in NYC. (New York City)

JRP: You have a rather unique start and foundation in photography. You have had the good fortune to work with one of the masters of the craft. Can you tell us about your photographic background?

Maynard Switzer: I attended Art Center College in Pasadena, although when I went there it was in Los Angeles. A friend of mine told me about an opening at Avedon’s studio, so I flew east and arranged for an interview. I was told to call back in a few days after I had met him, and at that time they would let me know if I had the position. A few days later I was informed I had the job! I had about 10 days to get back to L.A., pack my things and be back in New York.

After working with him for just over a year I spent about 8 months working on my portfolio and doing some freelance assisting. I was able to sustain myself doing some small jobs, but felt I needed to get away from New York, so I went to Toronto and opened up my own studio.

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It was a great place to work and hone my skills under less pressure while still working for major clients. I operated that studio for about 8 years. I then made the move back to New York. I always knew I would be back in New York at some point. I have been here for the last 22 years shooting fashion & beauty up until about 7 years ago at which time I switched completely over to travel & documentary work. I also teach a few classes at The International Center of Photography.

JRP: Being able to apprentice for Richard Avedon must have given you the chance to develop some special skills. Avedon was known for his Black & White work, how did you translate what was learned from him to your color work?

Maynard Switzer: I was able to develop my B & W skills to a high degree working for him, both shooting & printing, but as much as I love B & W, I enjoy color more. I think it helps to understand B & W well to be able to shoot color & get the most out of it. It all boils down to shades of Grey.

We did o lot of color shooting in his studio, so I learned all the little tricks of getting the most out of the medium. I think I have a very good eye for what colors work together and what colors don’t. For me, shooting color is a way of touching, smelling and feeling the texture of what ever I’m shooting, whether it’s an old women cooking in a mud hut, or the weathered skin of an old man.

JRP: Today you do a lot of travel images. What tools would we find in your camera bag for a typical shoot and trip?

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Maynard Switzer: I have tried to cut down on what I take now, realizing that I could probably have shot most of my pictures over the last couple of years with about 4 lenses. Digital, which I only shoot now, requires more paraphernalia than shooting film did. I typically travel with 2, sometimes 3 ( D3, D3x & D700) camera bodies, sometimes 3 up to 6 lenses.

I like fixed focal length lenses because they are faster, smaller and brighter in the viewfinder. I also think that you develop a sense of view with fixed focal lengths that you don’t with zoom lenses. That being said, I do carry with me a 14-24 zoom, 35 (my main lens) a 85 and 180. I will sometimes carry a 60 macro and a 16 full frame fish-eye. I use flash a lot, so I travel with 2 flashes.

I download all files to Epson viewers most of the time, but on occasion will travel with my Macbook and some small HD’s.

JRP: To obtain the wonderful color in your files please describe your digital work flow and the software you use.

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Maynard Switzer: I use 3 programs but find that I get the absolute best files out of Nikon NX2. Compared to other programs it brings out the best in what I have set on my camera. I also use Lightroom for certain things and Photo-Mechanic for quickly looking at the files. Both have a better interface than NX2, but I don’t think Lightroom produces as nice of a file as NX2, so I work with NX2 in spite of it’s quirks and seem to have it down fairly well.

JRP: How do you handle image printing?

Maynard Switzer: When I return home after a trip I edit the files and do color, exposure correction, and minor retouching. I convert the files that I want to print to tiffs and then take the files to a person who has been doing my printing for years and knows how I like my prints. He is a Photoshop expert. Sometimes I will sit with him, but most of the time I leave him alone with my instructions.

When I started shooting digital, I decided that I did not want to spend all day in front of a computer doing retouching. Most of my work requires very little retouching and I try to do all my cropping in the camera with the attitude that I won’t be able to do it after. This seems to help me in getting the right composition. Almost all of my prints are on watercolor paper. Printing is done on both Epson and HP printers.

JRP: Do you have any special projects you are currently working on?

Maynard Switzer: I am working on a book on Southeast Asia.

JRP: What has been the best advice you have received from another photographer?

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Maynard Switzer: Believe in yourself as a photographer and don’t let other people tell you you cannot do something. Also, learn all aspects of the equipment you use, but don’t become a slave to it. Learn it well enough to forget about it. It should be an extension of your eye & heart.

JRP: What advice would you like to share with photographers starting out?

Maynard Switzer: Start thinking about incorporating video with stills into future plans.

JRP: Thank you Maynard for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure and inspiration talking with you. We wish you continued success.

Maynard Switzer: Thank you James.

JRP: To view more of Maynard Switzer’s photography please follow this link: http://maynardswitzer.com/index.php?cat=Home

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