Edward Olive Q&A

I've been following Edward's work on Flickr for a couple of years and have been inspired by his use of analogue film and the distinctive 'look' he is able to achieve with his photography which is always 'as shot' with no digital manipulation other than the removal of dust or scratches from the scans. His purist approach to photography and ability to capture raw emotions, beautiful bokeh, subtle textures and vivid colours, using a host of analogue film cameras, is a tribute to the art of photography.

I asked Edward if he would be willing to do a Q&A with me, his reply was "yes as long as you can have irreverent answers". I wasn't surprised that his answers were, at times, as strong as his work which is without compromise. Below is the transcript from the original Q&A. Images from Edwards Flickr stream have been incorporated in to the post in no particular order or relevance to the questions and are just a small sample of his varied and extensive portfolio.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions Edward. You’re welcome to answer any/all of them. Please reply informally. You may be as irreverent as you like and express strong views if you have them. Some of the questions are ‘loaded’ to evoke a response while others are ambivalent to allow you to elaborate.

1) What's your full name
Edward Olive

2) Current occupation
Screen actor and wedding/ fine art photographer

3) Where are you currently living
Madrid Spain

4) What’s your age
Far too old

5) Why wedding photography
It just happened

6) How did you get started
By accident.

7) As a full-time photographer, which countries do you work in
In Western Europe at the moment but I should look at widening the field. Parochial is pointless.

8) Which countries would you like to visit for photographic opportunities

9) At what age did you become a photographer
About 4-5 years ago

13) What does film offer you that digital capture doesn’t
People either see it or they don’t.

14) What’s wrong with photography today, if anything

1. Digital cameras.

2. Perhaps due to reason 1) above - zillions of generic photos that lack soul.

3. The predominance of the generic in the media, advertising, press.... If you look at photography 50-70 years ago the level of talent, technique and quality was far higher. They were real photos taken by real photographers.

The industry is now dominated by the low budget photographers and/or nepotism and the who-you-knowers. The best photographers are the amateurs on flickr taking shots just for themselves, experimenting and improvising with all sorts of crazy cameras, lenses, films, techniques, model direction, image capture, lighting, colors, contrasts, layering, framing and generally wonderfully creative anarchy and uploading them to the web as a hobby. They are the real photography movements, not the cr*p you see in magazines from the talentless pros who have somehow got in cahoots with magazine directors and the ad agency pretentious in some dreadful anti-competitive anti-artistic dictatorship of mediocrity and repetition or from actually once talented pros who just now don’t bother to make the effort.

15) What do you find most difficult/challenging about photography
Trying to take a decent picture is really hard whoever you are. To create an original, unique image, without simply trying to photocopy someone else’s image.. . without repeating yourself, or if you do by reinventing or adding some new element that justifies the image’s existence... that says something to people and projects your own personal style and through which your personality, feelings or views can be discovered without dictating to the spectator is very, very difficult.

This is of course talking strictly about the photography, for business the only thing that matters is knowing the right people and fame. Any attempt at originality or personal concepts or any of the above mentioned elements will count against you or count for nothing.

16) Do you have any goals for 2010
My aim is to concentrate on the pictures. If I just run after any old job going my work will be compromised.

I want above all to take the best pictures I can.
If really good clients come my way proposing really great jobs where they let me take the best pictures I can I’ll take them. The rest I’ll pass on and undertake personal projects and to get my pictures out there.

17) Do you have anything exciting lined up for 2010
Whatever I have lined up is what I have. I am looking beyond that. I will see where I can take things.

18) Have you achieved your goals for 2009
I am never self satisfied.
I need to up my game on the quality of pictures, their critical recognition, their media and gallery presence and their business success.

19) How many days per month do you work
Personal life and personal projects and commercial ventures merge, day and night merge. It all blurs.

20) What gear do you use most
I like all types of real film cameras from fit in the pocket AF or zone focus compacts to all auto reflex cameras with fast lenses, AF rangefinders, to medium format 645 and 6x6 cameras.
I use them all depending on what I’m doing and how I feel. I also change the kit now and again to give my work a new angle or a different look.

I went through an all no thought compact slow lens everything in focus wedding stage then an AF rangefinder medium speed lens “thoughtful” period, then back to my usual AF reflex with superfast lenses and now I’m feeling only like using medium format for jobs, taking the view that I would prefer to have fewer pictures but bigger and better ones that I really had to think about when I made them. I have also gone through square and panoramic phases and am now thinking in 645 mode when I look at the world. I will be using some Mamiya M645 1000s with 220 and 120 color, slide and black and white films with Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 and Pentacon Six Carl Zeiss Jena lenses and Originally Hasselblad V series lenses adapted onto the Mamiya 645 bodies. Obsessive compulsive nonsense really.

21) Do you think ‘gear’ matters
Of course.
To win a world a formula one you need the right car, the right tyres and the right driver. The right driver alone won’t get far in the rain on slicks and my mother won’t get far in a Braun GP whatever tyres they put on it on the way to Sainsbury’s to buy her favourite soil association organic vegan biomilk.

You need the tools of the job to be able to express yourself properly and the right tools for each job. A compact camera with superfast lens can be wonderful for social reportage work but no good for a client’s macro still life shoot, nor for long distance high speed sports journalism.

22) Is there any more ‘gear’ you’d like to own which you don’t currently
I have far too many cameras it’s just ridiculous. I am far too obsessive and should get a life instead of more cameras.

23) What’s the strangest request you’ve been asked (photographically)
To take naked pictures of some lady to send to her ex boyfriend who had dumped her was amusing, but I knew from the tone of voice what she was going to ask.
To go to someone’s house to shoot them so they could upload a picture to a dating website because the client thought he had seen the woman of his dreams in sexyornot.com was again an assignment to take without entering into reasoning.

24) What’s the biggest compliment you’ve been paid and by whom (photographically)
I am ever grateful to the people who can understand what I do and who go out of their way to write to me. It helps me to get through the daily onslaught of just time waster estimate requesters that is the bane of a pro photographer.

There are many kind people in the world and many sensitive souls who are affected by the emotions conveyed in or provoked by artwork by myself and by others. These people are able to relate often deeply and genuinely unaffected by any prejudices such as the fame or name of artist. I would not be able to keep the motivation and self belief without the support of these people.

25) What’s the worst insult someone has said to you (photographically)
Mainly I get criticism or put downs from the local wedding, baptism and holy communion photographers here in Spain. The worst send regular hate mail, the slightly less aggressive just publicly criticise me and what I do and the most pleasant just try to ignore and refuse to acknowledge my work. It’s just par for the course if you dare to speak out about the general industry standards you are going to ruffle a few turkey.
I wrote to local wedding planner agencies sending them my photos this month. None even wrote back. They never will. If Cartier Bresson did local wedding photos they wouldn’t reply to him either. When people do this to you you need to ask yourself why. I am quite clear why.

26) What do you hope to achieve when taking photographs
I only care about one thing. To take the best photo I can. I don’t care about photos for personal memories... I never have. I don’t care who is in the picture nor if you can even tell who or what it is.

27) Do you have a favourite photograph that you took
I don’t rank my pictures but flickr has a useful tool that does. It is not exact but it gives me a few ideas.
It shows ranking by interesting, visits, favourites and comments. The visits will always be won by non-access-limited shots of ladies, and the other categories for other reasons.

When I think I have got a decent photo or a pair of them I often upload them to the internet (sometimes privately) to see what people think. Even when I think there are two very similar and equally valid pieces public opinion will clearly favour one over the other. If general consensus favours one I choose that one I try and figure out why for the future. If none of the public can relate to a picture then I know I have made a mistake or am being boring. There are times when a very few react but that the few who do are people of such levels of talent and discernment that I value their opinion. There are pictures that have universal appeal and those that have connoisseur appeal... and those that are rubbish and nobody likes (they get destroyed).

28) Do you have a favourite photograph by someone else
No. I like a lot of people’s pictures sometimes and a few people’s most of the time.

29) With regards to film, what’s your process from camera to print/web
I use pro labs rather than do my own development.
I do scan myself all fully automatic straight with no adjustments or fancy programs to remove dust etc – just straight scan as is.

I do my own post production work that includes only very slight light levels adjustments and dust removal on scans. I have no further computer knowledge nor any interest in computer generated special effects that are so popular these days.
I also use pro labs for printing. I suppose I am lazy and not genuine enough. I should be more authentic like Jordi Gual http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgual/ who develops even slide film and prints everything by hand personally.

30) Have you exhibited your work and if so where
Recent exhibitions
2010 - Citypulse Sensual - Galería Moro - Santiago de Chile – Collective exhibition

2009 - Hasselblad Masters 2009 – Copenhagen, London, New York, Hong Kong,– Collective exhibition – wedding photography

2009 - Citypulse Stop making sense (lomography) - Galería Moro - Santiago de Chile – Collective exhibition – lomographic photography

2009 - Citypulse Biosphere - Galería Moro - Santiago de Chile – Collective exhibition – urban photography

2009 - Photoespaña PHE “El agua de Madrid” – Madrid - Collective exhibition – fine art photography

2008 - “Rioja en los Sexto Sentidos” – Bodegas Franco Españolas – La Rioja - Collective exhibition –social photography

31) What’s your preferred mediums for print
Options are endless now though at top pro labs. I often just do the prints and leave the framing up the clients who will take decisions according to the colour schemes and woods used in their houses.

32) Are you signed to any stock/art agencies, if so, who
I am in Getty Images. They take 80% of the profit from usage. I make 20%. They are clever. I’m a sucker.

33) Are you working on any personal projects at the moment
Female nudes as always. Tomorrow I am going away for the weekend only to take nudes. A change from weddings for once.

34) What do you dislike about working with clients the most
Working in the wedding market is very difficult. The whole industry is dominated by the tasteless and the vulgar.

I try my best to select clients with taste, style and class, therefore avoiding any problems like complaints about the artistic nature of pictures, the slightly higher than average price of pictures etc. etc. Thorough elimination processes include telephone and face to face interviews to try to pick clients who actually understand what I try very hard to produce... clients with emotions... who can relate to pictures... who can value them either for objectively or technical reasons or subjectively for aesthetic and personal reasons. This doesn’t just make life less stressful it also makes sound financial sense. My pictures don’t sell best necessarily to the most affluent clients, they sell best to the clients who are the most sensitive emotionally... they don’t think in vulgar terms of X$ per photo they see people important to them, fleeting moments of emotion and would remortgage their house and live on bread and water for a year rather than not have all such pictures of their friends and family. I don’t sell quantities or numbers.. I sell something with emotional importance to people. I sell emotions to people with emotions. It’s not img1234.tiff it’s their little nephew crying under the table or their chunky best friend John Travoltaring with grandma on the dancefloor...

35) What’ do you like the most about working with your clients
There are weddings that stand out amongst the dozens of weddings you do. There are clients that stand out as exceptional. There are weddings with overflowing emotion... clients that just trust you.. that just tell you to enjoy yourself and to do just whatever you think is best... that tell you just to let them know what you need and not to worry about what it’s costing you.. you just do what you do best... clients that timidly ask if you can take a group shot and then accept unquestioningly when you tell them its not working. In spring 2008 I did the best wedding I have ever shot... by far the best wedding. It was just a wonderful wedding. Everything was just like a dream.

Their pictures went to every magazine and exhibition and got me nominated as Finalist in the Hasselblad Masters 2009 Wedding and Social event photography category. I wouldn’t have got nominated if I hadn’t been lucky enough to shoot the wedding of Ruben & Silke.
I have seen a lot of weddings but I still remember every minute of theirs. I had never had a wedding like theirs before and I’m still looking for the next one. Perhaps it was the only one. Perhaps there never will be another.

36) Do you have a favourite model
Yes, for personal as well as aesthetic and photographic reasons.
She was featured in my “Private Collection” published at the end of 2009

37) Is there anyone you’d like to shoot (photographically, or with a gun for that matter) that you haven’t so far, who/why/where.
All important people would be ideal models I don’t care whether it’s Bill Clinton or Madonna. They would all be perfect for pictures and for business.

38) If you had to choose one camera, one lens and one film (if you choose film over digital) to work with solely for your own purposes, what would they be and why
Please don’t talk to me about digicameras. I have no interest in such things
I make no secret of the fact that my best pictures by far up to end 2009 were taken on Hasselblad v series (500) cameras with Carl Zeiss t* lenses on expired film. However for personal reasons I will be changing cameras for 2010 using medium format rectangular Mamiya m645 1000s set up. See http://www.mamiya.com/assets/pdfs/645/M645_1000S_v4.pdf and 6x6 square Pentacon Six http://www.pentaconsix.com/ instead.

39) Do you have any plans to stop taking photographs for a living
If my screen acting or presenting work takes off again I will reduce further the number of photographic assignments I accept for new clients. I am already being much more selective about the people I accept as clients.

40) How do you relax
To be able to stand the daily grind of replying to endless emails from people that only ask how much (money) and how many (photos) in relation to potentially hiring you is quite simply dreadful. I rarely receive emails discussing artistic elements or with emotionally or aesthetically based queries. Having worked in the wedding business for several years now I have learned its all about low price and bulk volume for all but the very very few.
The only way you can handle this is to spend time and money on relaxation. I switch off my phones and email; spend time most days stretching and in the spa at the gym; I dance, run, swim, listen to music and spend time at my lady friend’s house where I don’t allow any form of electronic communication from anyone related to work. Anything to put the hagglers to one side.

41) What excites you

42) What’s your favourite Flickr group

run by Mackeson

I also think Film is not dead it just smells funny http://www.flickr.com/groups/onfilm/
run by Frans Peter Verheyen
and its associated project http://www.thiaps.com/
is very important not just in promoting talented new photographers but in supporting the use of genuine film photography.

Whilst not strictly a group I wholeheartedly support the Citypulse photography project on flickr organised by George Lever for the critical selection of really wonderful photographers
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22688867@N00/ and associated web http://www.citypulse.co.cl/

43) What’s the best thing about your job
There is nothing better in Spanish weddings than Jamon Cinco Jotas http://www.leadingbrandsofspain.com/food/cinco-jotas/ or perhaps even better Joselito http://www.departures.com/articles/most-delicious-ham-in-the-world. If I find the guys slicing it fresh right in front of you I know I won’t touch anything else. If accompanied by a really top level Gran Reserva Rioja or Ribera del Duero things are really looking up. I am still waiting for the off the scale wedding with Pingus http://www.rarewineco.com/html/impo/spai/d-ping.htm.
High or very high level Weddings in Spain and France are generally a true pleasure gastronomically.

My experience of UK weddings however is very different. The catering at the highest possible level is of course stunning but the food in the rest of weddings can be absolutely uneatable, the wine undrinkable. These things are actually very important if you are in the middle of nowhere with a long 14 hour high pressure day of work to get through. I take dried fruit and nuts and a bottle of water to jobs just in case and there have been times it has been the sine qua non for late night picture focus and for the patience required to deal with the wedding people who by then are often so leery and so drunk they can hardly stand up and suddenly think they are Cary Grant and want o pose for pictures .

You can abuse your body occasionally and get away with it but if you are back-to-back wedding travelling every weekend from spring to autumn you need to look after yourself. Having endured sleepless nights in noisy cold fleapit hostels queuing up in my towel for the shared shower room down the corridor) I had been booked into by wedding couples (when all the rest of the guests were in the local 5* GL) I have now changed my contracts to stipulate that I pay for and book all my own travel arrangements. I go first class on Spanish trains (which is wonderful) and sleep five stars and GL if there is one. It’s not being a snob, its looking after what are your main business assets (before cameras, lenses or computers) your mental and physical functioning. I need to be able to sleep all night without hostel drunks the other side of cardboard walls keeping me awake all night before shoots and cannot have flu at work from cold, damp drafty rooms or backache with camera bags from soggy beds that cave in the middle. I now try to turn work into pleasure, giving some sense to it all, turning trips into part work part short break on the beach, int country or skiing. If you are strict enough about the prices you charge and the people you accept working for being a travelling wedding photographer can actually be fun. Most of my erotica is produced and subsidised by taking advantage of exotic locations and glamorous hotels that I am now lucky enough to have coming part and parcel with the upscale weddings. I also put my personal films in to develop with work film and so don’t worry so much about spending so much on my personal pictures.

My last series of nudes was all shot at night in a luxury hotel’s lifts, corridors and stairways dodging the security cameras and the other hotel guests.

44) What don’t you like about your job
Having to talk about money with clients or potential clients. It dirties the art and the longer you have to spend talking about it the more the art suffers for that client in particular and for your artistic output in general.

When I work as actor I just get called by the agent, sent to casting, hired or not, told when to turn up and the lines to learn and receive a cheque after. I leave all the arguments about money or hours or terms to the agent. I have no interest in knowing about that. The agent does the best they can for me and that’s their job. They do it well and I can relax thinking only about the artistic stuff like getting to understand myself as the character from within. If I move up the success ladder I will get someone who can deal with all the cr*p leaving me to just enjoy doing the photos.

45) How would you like to be remembered
Nobody is going to remember me.

46) What advice would you give to someone looking to become a full-time wedding/portrait photographer
Ask yourself – do you have something new or different to say or can you say it in your own unique way? And I mean really.

Google searches are full of grey generic wedding photographers falsely advertising themselves as unique, artistic, different, natural, unposed... blah blah... you click on the site and one is the same as another. The market is saturated with the stuff. Lined up posed say cheese group shots and fake caramelised fake bent over backward bride kisses for the camera.
Then ask yourself if you do really believe in the importance of your own work are you tough enough to spend years having people dismiss you, choose others instead of you, criticise or refuse to hire you for charging a fair price for original artwork....

47) If someone would like to see your work, where can they find it

Even better if they really do like it they can own it:
I have always said if its free or cheap – nobody will value it.

48) Can you send some examples of your work as low-res JPG’s (500pixels)
Take anything you want from flickr

49) Do you have anything else you’d like to add