JRP: Michael Creagh is a talented photographer whose work I became familiar with over the web. Thank you Michael for taking time to answer a few questions for JRP Blog.
Michael Creagh: You are very welcome, James. I am always happy to talk with someone about my work. I really enjoy your blog, and I am honored to be featured.
JRP: Where is home for you Michael?
Michael Creagh: I live in Brooklyn and have a studio in the Garment District in Manhattan. I moved to New York to pursue fashion almost a decade ago.
JRP: How did you get started in photography and do you have any formal training in your background?
Michael Creagh: I made a big decision after college that I didn’t want a 9-5 job. Instead, I took off to the South of France, then Italy, then England. At the time, I thought I might want to be a writer. But apparently to be a writer, you have to write everyday. I just walked around taking pictures. I read a photo book, later joined a club, then ran a club, and then just hit the ground running in New York with a camera on my side. Now I teach a fashion photography class one day a week at a private college in Manhattan.
JRP: What is it about photography especially Black & White photography that motivates you?
Michael Creagh: I have an aesthetic and a point of view that I want to share. I work really hard at it. Specifically, I like a limited color palette that I think translates really well into black and white images. A lot of my stories have one or two key elements that tie the images together and I surround that with simplicity. The rest is a strong, beautiful model that translates into many languages.
JRP: When it comes to equipment what would I find in your camera bag and or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor?
Michael Creagh: I’ve got some really great equipment. My favorite camera is my Hasselblad H3D 39 megapixel. It is a real beauty and produces great files. It is not very flexible though so my everyday cameras are the Canon 5D Mark II and the 1DS Mark III. The Canons are great for quick shooting in a variety of lighting. For instance, I love natural and low light. The Canons are much more useful. The Hassleblad does not handle high ISOs. I rarely shoot at above 100 speed with it. The Canons, however, I love using an 85 mm 1.2 lens and shooting in the shadows at ISO 800 – 1600.
For lighting, I bought a Profoto Acute 2400 system when I started 10 years ago and though I have replaced a few strobe heads, it still works. But I do have a lot of auxiliary lighting; from Calumet Travelites to Alien Bees.
JRP: Could you please describe your digital workflow and the software you use.
Michael Creagh: My digital workflow largely depends on the client/project I am shooting for and my subsequent choice of camera. With the Hasselblad, I shoot almost exclusively tethered to the new iMac quad core. At 60 megabytes for a raw compressed image, you need fast speeds and a firewire 800 connection to keep up with fashion shoots of 1000 images. The software, Phocus, is exclusive for Hasselblad. It is nice and fast, but you really have no choice in software as Hasselblad has its own .fff files.
For Canon, I only shoot tethered about half the time. I use the Canon software. I have tried others, but find it effective. Often though, I just shoot to CF cards so I can really move around and explore the light and model.
JRP: Do you print your images?
Michael Creagh: I rarely do now. Mainly, I see my work when others print it; catalogs, my book, magazines, posters, an occasional billboard. I currently have floor to ceiling photos up in clothing stores for a Hong Kong client. I have only seen snapshots of them!
JRP: Could you break down one of your images and explain the lighting and any special concerns you might of had during the shoot?
Michael Creagh: Bubbles is one of my favorite images. I shot it for a creative catalog with a long time client, designer Susana Monaco. How Susana and I came up with the idea will always be a little bit of a mystery. I think I pitched her an idea of a model sitting on a white sphere in a white studio, holding a string to a single white balloon. Susana said, what if we did a lot of balloons. Then it just got out of hand and we filled a studio with giant balloons. It was a fun set we built. The 3D nature of it elicited compositions and layering. Ideas flowed.
The production cannot be overlooked. We hired a great model from a top agency. I think that really made the shot. The model has this great porcelain face that mirrors the balloons.
There were pitfalls in it. We discussed using several different color balloons. Originally, there was an idea to blow out the lighting. But what we did felt right. The final lighting was decided on set. After thinking I needed a lot of light, I found the white balloons were so reflective that I used a single strobe light into a beauty dish. Then the light just bounced around. That is why you really only see 1 circular highlight per balloon and a lot of subtle shadows and gradations.
JRP: What are some of the new directions being taken by you in your photography?
Michael Creagh: I am always experimenting with and refining both my current lighting and new light sources. I shoot all the time whether I have a job or not; just playing. But most of the new directions are business and marketing related. I am really looking for bigger projects and budgets that can help me put some ideas I have into motion. Some ideas take a lot of production. That is not easy to accomplish on your own.
JRP: What has been some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Michael Creagh: It was probably the first advice I ever received. My grandfather was a keen amateur and I had a cool idea for a shot. But it didn’t turn out. I was a teenager. He told me I needed to better understand how my camera worked if I wanted to put my idea onto film. Now, I am constantly trying to do just that. It might be a little more complicated these days and often production or people related, but I am trying to figure out all the steps I need to do to get an idea into print.
JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?
Michael Creagh: I think the most important thing is to explore your own beliefs and interests. What should the world look like? Should a photo be provocative or beautiful? What should a woman look like or be like? Let your tastes and even your biases guide you.
JRP: Thank you Michael for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you and continued success.
Michael Creagh: Thank you James. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts.
JRP: To view more of Michael Creagh‘s photography please follow these links: