Spotlight Interview … Portrait and Fine Art Photographer Carter Andrews

Carter Andrews of Not Alone August 3, 2009.  (Photo by Dipti Vaidya

Please welcome Portrait and Fine Art Photographer Carter Andrews to James Robinson Photography Blog. Thank you Carter for sharing this time with us. Where do you call home?

Carter Andrews: Nashville, Tennessee.

JRP: How did your interest in photography start? Was there any formal training in your background?

Carter Andrews: I was in the photo club in high school in the early 70’s. I have had no formal training.

JRP: Who are some of the photographers that have influenced your work?

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Carter Andrews: I constantly look at 500px for how people light subjects. The biggest influence has been learning lighting theory from Chuck Gardner (super.nova.org/DPR/). Chuck has an old school teaching style, but he really knows his stuff. I spent about a year obsessively going back to his writing and corresponding with him until I had internalized his theories. He still hangs out a good bit on the Fred Miranda blog.

JRP: How did you develop your vision and technique early in your career?

Carter Andrews: I’ll answer most of these questions in the context of my Music City Faces Project. I put myself on assignment to constantly go out and shoot people I did not know. I made tons of mistakes, and I kept learning and revising my approach. Once I got really good at that craft, I found all sorts of other photography came pretty easily.

JRP: Music City Faces … how did that project start and how has it developed over time? Do you have people who assist you and if so what special roles do they play?

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Carter Andrews: I started Music City Faces because I wanted a reason to work on portrait photography. I knew I wanted to become an expert at catching people and needed a good excuse to go out and shoot.

I have tried working with an assistant, but that really diminished the impromptu feel I try to impart. Over time, my technique has improved a lot. I have developed a pretty good reputation for the work in Nashville and I am getting lots of exhibit opportunities.

JRP: What would we find in your camera bag for a typical shoot?

Carter Andrews: Canon 5D Mark III with battery attachment and 85 1.2 and 135 2.0 lenses.

JRP: Artificial or available light, is there a type of lighting you prefer? What are your most often used light modifiers?

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Carter Andrews: I much prefer natural light. Since I am going for candid looks, using flashes tends to make my subjects stiffer and less natural looking. I do use a hand-held Wescott reflector on about half my shots. Lots of times I get volunteers to hold the reflector for me. I always look for great light and then wait for the humans to wonder into it. That is so much easier than creating good light with gear. It limits the people and places I can shoot, but I am comfortable with that limitation.

JRP: Would you please describe your digital work flow and the software you use? In your opinion what must do to adequately master the image processing of their craft?

Carter Andrews: I have moved to Lightroom first and only go to Photoshop if I can’t get it done in Lightroom. I always start with exposure and color temperature settings first, then do the crop, then work on other aspects. I try to do the least possible to an image to guard its authenticity. I now know how light works so many of my shots can be published right out of the camera. That makes for a nice confluence of easier post production and technically better images.

JRP: What do you feel is the most critical moment in the capture of your images?

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Carter Andrews: It is all about the approach to people. I work very hard to keep my subjects natural. Several things go into this.

I usually know exactly how I want to position my subject before I ask for their picture. So I can usually have the shot done within sixty seconds of making the ask. This leaves no time for people to become self-conscious.

Getting people to trust me instantly is important. I try hard to be gentle, humble and kind. Often, I am working a crowd, and I have a pretty good instinct as to who will be an easy yes for giving me permission to shoot them, and I go to them first. If I have someone I really want to shoot in a crowd, I always shoot people around them first, so they will have a chance to watch me work and see it is a quick, pleasant easy experience.

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The most important thing is to be supportive to people while at the same time not giving them any indication about how I expect them to act. I avoid any excitement or energy coming from me other than friendly acceptance. This gives me the best opportunity to get a completely honest, un-posed feel.

The most common problem is when people give a big cheesy smile. I’ll then ask them to “lose the cheese” or ask them to give me a completely neutral, relaxed face.

JRP: If not photography what would Carter Andrews be doing with his time?

Carter Andrews: Origami, bike riding, writing. 🙂

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

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Carter Andrews: Just go out and shoot.

JRP: What advice would you share with me and other photographers?

Carter Andrews: Two things: Start with your exhibition in mind first. I only get motivated to shoot when I have a clear exhibition/publication end in mind. Commercial gigs do that, because they supply the publishing context. On the art side, a lot of my search is deciding ahead of time exactly where and how I want to show the work. I seek out places I like, preferring public spots that are not official galleries. Then I reverse engineer what kinds of shots/prints would best fit the space; who I need to find to support the work financially; and how to get through the politics of being able to exhibit there.

Secondly, I think it helps to have a global point of view when you work. My point of view is that everyone is equally beautiful and interesting, and, if I do my job right, their inner beauty will shine through. That dictates a radical giving up of control on my side and informs all my decisions about how to shoot. My point of view is that the image “belongs” to the subject, not to me. That means I have to be willing to give up trying to make every shot a masterpiece other photographers will drool over. My job is to please/capture the subject authentically, and if other photographers “get it,” so much the better. But other photographers are emphatically not my audience.

JRP: Thank you Carter for sharing this time with us. It has been a pleasure and we wish you continued success. To view more of Carter Andrews’ photography please follow these links:

Musiccityfaces.com

Facebook.com/musiccityfaces

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