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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Victoria Photographer Ian Simpson of IMS FotoGrafix

The other day, I had an opportunity to sit down with Ian and ask him a few questions about his photography business. We were sitting in his backyard by his well-manicured vegetable garden and nicely-kept greenhouse enjoying a beer in the late night summer cool breeze. While talking to Ian, a moth flew into my water, but I turned down Ian's offer of a beer, because as a model, I have to watch my caloric intake...hahaha.

He is the person whom I credit for getting me started in modeling. Ian provides me with photos that enable me to find paid work as a model because he knows how to bring out the best in people :) As a result, I have booked work with professionals and amateurs alike.

Occasionally, he hires me to assist on photoshoots, while teaching me photography and photoshop techniques. As a result of his teaching, I was able to advance as a photographer much faster than if I were learning it myself. He is very open when it comes to teaching people about photography, as long as they have a desire to learn.


AVIVA: How long have you been doing photography?
I've been interested in photography since I was 10. At 10, I went to Alberta with a Kodak X15F, where I photographed teepees, horses, people, birds, and gophers. In BC, on my way back to Victoria, we went to the Okanagan Game Farm, where I photographed lions, tigers, rattlesnakes, giraffes, a thing called a raccoon dog, and other forms of wildlife, which really got me excited about photography.

AVIVA: What is your favorite thing about photography?
:My favorite thing about photography, when it comes to models, is the dynamic between the models and I, the fun we have, and the challenge of trying to capture that perfect shot followed by emotions which vary between ecstasy and agony after viewing the images resulting from the day's shoot. You can rely on all the technical expertise you think you may have, only to find out that what you thought was a phenomenal shot is crap, and then finding out that a picture you took almost as a joke is pure gold. Another thing I love is the excitement of trying out a new technique that I had been studying is something I can now add to my toolbox because it worked out well. I also love the satisfaction when the girls go crazy over my photos and are thrilled with the results, and the fact that I didn't waste their time, effort and money.

AVIVA: Do you believe you have a unique style? Who influences you?
I try my best to bring something unique and to try to inject emotion, mood, and a technically good image, while at the same time bringing out the personality of the model in such a way that the viewer of the image can experience a range of emotions and get some idea of who the model really is. Other times, I love to create something that is pure fantasy to take the viewer away from their day-to-day concerns and allow them to explore emotions that they definitely would not have otherwise experienced, hopefully in a very positive way...[laughs] My influences are Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, David Lachapelle, Norman Rockwell, Leonardo DaVinci, Van Gogh, and the list goes on for me as I've been a huge fan of these great artists and more than I can list right now. One day I hope to have some kind of vision in my craft that would make any one of these people even slightly impressed, so I continue to study and try to bring my own creative elements to my images.

AVIVA: Do you have a favorite subject?
I don't have what you can call exactly a favorite subject, as much as I enjoy the challenge of trying to find something unusual, beautiful, and emotive in any shooting situation; be it an insect, model, bird, bear, or landscape. Basically, my favorite thing is to be in the process of creating something.

AVIVA: Where do you see photography taking you five years from now?
Within the next 5 years, based on the way things are going right now, and what appear to be my advancements in the technical end of photography, a growing ability to bring my own personal message into an image, as well as having the privilege of being able to have upgraded my camera, lenses, and lighting gear and a greater understanding of the business end of the ever changing world of digital photography, and having some success in it, I can see that by bringing more of a business ethic to what I'm doing and trying to achieve, I can see being successful as a magazine contributor, having gallery shows, and just basically creating images that people love.

AVIVA: If there was one thing you could say to a photographer who is just starting out, what would it be?
Study how to use the tools of the craft so that the results you get are not a big mystery to you as to how you got them, and then you will have a greater chance of capturing something that could be called a personal vision as opposed to an image that anyone, even a chimp, could have shot by pointing the same camera at the same subject with the camera set to automatic, because that is just what the camera recorded, regardless of any personal creativity involved. Another thing is to practice what you study so much that it becomes second nature, and after a while you will find yourself not making the same mistakes over and over again that you see in everyone's Facebook galleries, fridges, and horrifyingly enough framed and placed on walls in homes which are then treated like the Mona Lisa no matter how badly composed, out of focus, blown out, and cliched. Eventually, you will find yourself creating photographs instead of taking snapshots.

AVIVA: Do you have any advice for beginner models?
Be very choosy whom you agree to shoot with, learn the criteria that makes a good photograph, and then find a seasoned professional that can give you images that are worth the money you pay. But, if like most models, you barely have enough money to eat, much less pay a professional photographer, then see if you can convince someone who is a worthy photographer to shoot TFP; always avoid photographers whose images look like snapshots, and are crude. Also, when you communicate with them, there should be nothing vague about the theme of the shoot and be very wary of photographers who try to slowly work you into a situation where it becomes obvious they're just trying to get you naked. In the world of photography today, there is a huge amount of what are called GWC's, which stands for "Guy with a Camera"; this person's portfolio will invariably be filled with poorly shot, poorly lit images of girls who seem almost afraid and will be in unflattering poses, which they on their own would not have done. NEVER, ever shoot anything you might regret later, not for any money, particularly if you are a nurse, teacher, or plan to be some kind of public persona, because this can come back and bite you in the ass hard, such as meaning the end of that career. Another thing that every new model should not waste time with is shooting with friends who consider themselves to be photographers, who clearly have no training, whether self taught or formally trained, unless you are happy to just have those photos as Facebook pictures or other unmarketable images like that. If you do get around people who know the business and have some success, great or small, in photography, you can learn so much more in that environment as opposed to just treading water in your career shooting snapshots with amateurs. The biggest thing you have to remember is few girls who embark on a modeling career EVER make any money at it unless they are truly dedicated and hold no illusions that the mere sight of them is a professionally shot photo will skyrocket them to some fantasy world of success. BE PREPARED TO WORK. Be honest with yourself and to quote Billy Pegram, whom I've had the privilege of having dinner with and gaining some insight into the REAL world of how modeling actually works, "Stand in front of a mirror nude, look at yourself, and ask yourself 'what do I have to offer'. Find your best feature, be it hands, hair, skin, face, butt, legs, and then send photos of yourself via editor/art director or publisher and ask if they could use you." Above all, remember that it's a very very highly competitive field, and to do anything in it means you have to gain a good understanding of how it works. Without doing these things, being successful in the very weird world of modeling is akin to winning the lottery, which has happened, but in very rare cases. Do NOT count on what I said in the last sentence working for you under any circumstances.

AVIVA: Any last comments?
A lot of people will say, "Hey, as long as you're having fun with it, then that's great." Well, that's fine, but guess what, the girls who are serious understand that they are a model and live that way. Meaning: they are concerned with the way they look to such a degree that working out, eating right, taking care of their skin, hair, nails, learning about wardrobe, who's who in their desired field of modeling and bring a business ethic to that have a whole lot more "fun" and even better than that, get a great sense of accomplishment from seeing their efforts rewarded.

You can view some of Ian's work on Model Mayhem

Both images above were taken by Ian of IMS FotoGrafix

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