Category Archives: Photographer Q&A

Photographer Q&A with Bridget Besaw

Bridget Besaw / Aurora Photos

Aurora Photographer Bridget Besaw has been involved in environmental issues since an early age. Her photography tells the stories of our environment and the impact of how humans effect their habitat. We recently interviewed Bridget about her book From the Land and her upcoming projects.

Aurora Photos: You spent a great deal of time working to capture the images that are now published in From the Land, what was it like to be a part of a project like this, and what did you hope to accomplish in this project?

Bridget Besaw: It was a privilege to be able to spend so much time with people who have dedicated their lives and livelihood to creating healthy, local food. My goal was to create images that brought the viewer to the farm, to the soil, and to the people who tend it. I set out to make imagery that illustrated how closely connected we actually are to the soil and the seasons and the cycles of nature–if we choose to remember this connection.

A.P: You have focused your work environmental photography, when and how did you spark an interest in this?

B.B: I have been an environmental activist since I was a kid fishing in streams in my back yard with my dad…wondering about the health of the rivers and the fish, asking questions about wildlife and how humans were effecting their habitat from the tree-fort we made out back. After years of newspaper and magazine photography on a variety of issues that didn’t interest me, I began to develop large-scale projects that nurtured my love of nature and my desire to protect it. I realized that for me, an in-depth body of work for a conservation organization had more power to raise awareness than a single magazine article, and the creation of the work, the relationship with the organizations and the stories, was just more fulfilling all-around for me.

A.P: Is there one particular conservation project you have a deep passion for, or are you involved in any and all that you can be?

B.B: Thats a great question! One I’ve never been asked before! I recently decided to focus on stories that have a component of food/nutrition in them. I believe that the health of our bodies is directly related to how functional our relationship to the planet is. To be healthy, we must have an understanding of our delicate connection to the planet’s natural resources. So I am interested in projects that address this reality like the comparison of large-scale, high-impact agriculture vs local & organic farming, sustainable fisheries vs unsustainable ocean harvests, and ultimately–in the necessity to adapt our food consumption practices that humans must accept now in order to live in health– on a healthy planet.

A.P: What advice do have you for amateur photographers looking to break into the environmental and conservation side of photography?

B.B: Take one of my workshops! Ha! Just kidding…but I have created the “Conservation Photojournalism” workshop that I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and now I have created similar ones here in Patagonia, that pair up students with organizations and give them an assignment for the duration of the workshop. The feedback so far has been tremendous in that it gives students a safe, nurturing environment to tackle an environmental story for a “client” and then to deliver it by week’s end.

Otherwise my best suggestion is to seek out a story or an issue in your area, in your backyard, that you care about and then find the organization that is working on this issue. There most certainly is one, and they most certainly need photography to help them in their efforts. The relationship may at first be one of a simple trade of access to their people and their story in exchange for your photographs, but often those relationships build into long-term fulfilling client situations, all the while creating a portfolio and demonstrating a commitment to telling conservation stories.

A.P: Do you have any new and exciting upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

B.B: I just finished the filming of a short documentary on the salmon farming industry in Chile. I hope to enlighten American consumers about the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals this food is produced with, and to also raise awareness among Chileans about the environmental effects of the industry on Chilean waters. This will be released in both the US and Chile.

Also this summer I begin a multi-year project for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust documenting the removal of 3 hydrodams from the Penobscot River–a globally significant river restoration project that will open up 1000 miles of fish habitat and restore recreational and traditional fishing opportunities along the river.

Bridget Besaw / Aurora Photos
Bridget Besaw / Aurora Photos

To view more images from Bridget Besaw, visit Aurora Photos.

Photographer Q&A with Nick Hall

Nick Hall / Aurora Photos

Aurora Photographer Nick Hall was recently featured in PDN’s 30 2011 here is a brief question and answer with Nick about his Photography and work.

Aurora Photos: Your series Seasons of Subsistence on the Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska has been an on going project. Can you shed some light on where the idea came from and how the project continues to unfold?

Nick Hall: I have been spending my summers in Bristol Bay, Alaska for several years now, I suppose I would say it has become my second home. In the summer of 2009 I spent a week at a traditional Yup’ik summer fishing camp. It was the first time I had ever witnessed the traditional subsistence activities of Yup’ik Eskimos first hand and I was utterly captivated. There was a lot of down time in between fishing for me to chat with all the people there and I was overwhelmed by what I was learning about the Native Alaskan subsistence lifestyle. I promised myself then and there that I was going to develop a personal project to explore this story. The story is made even more compelling to me as a former environmental scientist by the fact that a British (I’m originally a Brit) mining corporation is proposing to build the world’s largest open-pit mine right in the heart of Bristol Bay and the headwaters of its salmon rivers, which I must add are the most productive salmon rivers left on Earth. I called the project Seasons of Subsistence and I have been visiting Bristol Bay every season for the past two years.

The project has evolved a lot since I first imagined it. Last summer, 2010, I took a bunch of location lighting gear up to Bristol Bay and created a series of environmental protraits. My intention was to capture the people I had been photographing perviously and also the immense landscape of Bristol Bay. I think the results are pretty dramatic and there has been a great response from them. On my last trip to Bristol Bay, just this past March, we went even further with the project and shot a short documentary film. We are hoping to release the film in the next few weeks. I have teamed up with a super awesome Producer/Editor and I am just so excited about the convergence of still and motion technology right now. There are so many cool ways to blend the media (stills and motion) and develop seriously rich narratives.

A.P: Your portfolio showcases editorial projects, photo essays and commercial work. Can you share what the transition has been like moving into a more commercial realm?

N.H: This transition is something I have been working on and is still a work in progress. I think it is important to have a diversified business model that incorporates commercial and editorial clients. Also from a creative point of view I love the diversity of challenges one faces on editorial projects compared to commercial. I can’t imagine not doing a mixture of both.

Nick Hall / Aurora Photos
Nick Hall / Aurora Photos

To view more work from Nick Hall, visit Aurora Photos.

Photographer Q&A with Michael Hanson

Breaking Through Concrete (January 2012)

Aurora Photographer Michael Hanson recently took some time from his busy schedule to answer questions and talk about his upcoming book, Breaking Through Concrete.

Aurora Photos: Your photographs have you all over the world, how do you keep up with such a crazy travel schedule?

Michael Hanson: Lots of sticky notes on where to go next. I have struggle to be more organized than I naturally am to keep all the rental cars, flights, etc in order. I definitely travel differently than I did when I first started, but the anticipation and excitement of working outside the NW remains the same. I’ve become more targeted in my approach to a trip. I’m not wandering around aimlessly, though a huge part of me really misses that style. Photography is a key to people’s lives and homes. It’s an easy way to get access that other travelers don’t have, and I feel very fortunate to see other places and cultures through the camera. One thing the schedule has done has made part of me crave the Northwest and home. I love waking in my house and seeing my friends in Seattle, but after a short rest, I’m anxious to get back on the road. It’s a win-win, I guess.

A.P: You recently finished a study on Urban Farming, can you please share with us your experience and insight on this issue?

M.H: I was in Bolivia working on a project when news came in that the publisher had signed on to the idea of an urban farming ‘tour’ across the US. Immediately, we decided we couldn’t just drive a Subaru or a pickup truck to all these farms for 7 weeks; we had to do it with a certain style. In Bolivia, immaculate, white, retro-buses carry locals from one point to another. These buses are a brilliant white with an almost neon, summer popsicle colored stripe on the side. This inspiration led us to buy a short school bus which had been converted to an RV and ran on a combination veggie grease and diesel. We painted it white with a blue stripe on the side. We named him Lewis Lewis after a farming friend of ours who had recently passed away. We traveled for 7 weeks from Seattle to California across the Midwest to New Orleans and up the East Coast finally ending in Chicago. Each farm represents a different aspect of this urban farming movement. Some work with youth, some work with ex-incarcerated men and women, some are on rooftops, some are in the heart of a suburb and one was a collection of everyone’s yard. Of all the trips I’ve be lucky enough to be a part of, this remains at the top of the list. Every day was wild. I knew zero about diesel engines when we started and now I feel much more comfortable under the hood, or at least under the hood of a short school bus. I am sure that will come in handy again one day. Seriously though, sometimes the most adventurous trips aren’t in exotic locations or foreign countries. I can’t imagine a trip with more highs and lows, but I look back at this project as my favorite.

A.P: When will the book be Published and how can we find out more information about Urban Farming?

M.H: Breaking Through Concrete :: Building an Urban Farm Revival will be published in January 2012 by Univ. California Press. You can visit over the next few months as the website begins to get rebuilt in anticipation of the book release.

Michael Hanson / Aurora Photos
Michael Hanson / Aurora Photos

To view Michael Hanson’s Select Portfolio, visit Aurora Select.
To view more work from Michael Hanson, visit Aurora Photos.

Photographer Q&A with Craig Pulsifer on Watertight

Aurora Photographer Craig Pulsifer was recently faced with a photographer’s nightmare: what to do when your model doesn’t arrive? Like a true professional, Craig took matters into his own hands.

Aurora Photos: Please share with us the backstory on how you ended up starring in your own video?

Craig Pulsifer: The reason I’m in the video and not the athletic, self-assured Filipina who was cast for the part is because the talent missed her flight.  I either had to work on both sides of the lens or call the whole thing off, so I went for it.

A.P: You seem able to adapt to any situation that is thrown at you, how has this skill impacted your career in photography?

C.P: I’m not sure if my adaptability has impacted my career, or if the career has made me adaptable.  Early on, we moved our whole family of seven into the one-bedroom suite of our house and rented the upstairs for a whole year, just to survive.  Through that, I learned how to put an old Filipino proverb into practice that says, “If the sheets are short, bend your legs.”  It taught me to improvise.

That said, adaptability is the key to all good location work.  Dealing with people, places, weather, gear and other mysteries will always bring surprises.  That’s why I tend to write my plans in pencil rather than ink.  It leaves room for happy accidents to occur that you could never script or arrange; thinks like, a break in the clouds, an amazing location… and maybe even acting ability when your talent jams on you.

To view more work from Craig Pulsifer, visit Aurora Photos.

Photographer Q&A with Fernanda Preto on BECO

“At the riverside of a narrow arm of Rio Negro in downtown Manaus, families live in suspended blockhouses over what has become a huge urban dump. Sensitive issues such as family, religion and poverty put together a complex mosaic of poetic disturbing images.”

Aurora Photos: What inspired you to make a documentary about the families living in downtown Manaus?

Fernanda Preto: The Amazon just got me in such a special way, I always wanted to go back there and hear the stories about the rain forest, the river, the adventures of living in the middle of the Amazon. Manaus is in the middle of the rain forest. It has a special atmosphere, even with all the barriers to living in a traditional way and the contradictions of a big city. As the city is growing and expanding, things are changing fast in Manaus. Traditional manners are in transition, the relations of the RIBEIRINHOS (people that used to live on the riverside in the forest), now living in the city, are changing dramatically everyday. I see that this change, this transition is history and it is an important story to be told! Not only in a superficial way, but to get inside these people’s lives and see how they go through these changes!

A.P: Can you explain what it was like working in such an austere environment?

F.P: Manaus is a very under developed city in terms of living. Most parts of the city are suburbs, which means that Manaus has a very clear separation of social classes; very poor and very rich. People used to say that it took five hundred years to have 1 million inhabitants and just 20 years to have another million; you can imagine how crowded Manaus is. Manaus also has a housing problem, mostly due to land invasion like the place we filmed. Well, this makes these places very hard to live, considering the drinking water and sewage.

Like any big city, the poor suburbs are an austere environment,and this place isn’t different. Sometimes in violence, but mostly in their ways of thinking, in how they understand the world and how they react to it.

It was very hard to encounter everyday with people living below the poverty line and know that is a very optomistic thought that the govnermment of this country will resolve this!! Why is the govnermment of the Amazon thinking about have the Soccer world cup, spending millions on the stadium, and these people do not even have food to eat! The hardest thing coming face to face with this reality that is very common in my country!!! It was hard to see that people just got used to living like that!

A.P: All of the interviews seem private and sincere, was it hard to get the people of Manaus to open up to you? How were you able to do it?

F.P: Manaus is my home!! Even though I had lived there for only 3 years, it felt like an eternity because of the way people respond to you. The Amazon people have such a cozy way of interacting with you, it is amazing! At first they are a little bit suspicious, because of their own past and the way they understand the “time”, but once you open up to them, everything changes!!! While living in Manaus I went to this place twice to do an essay about it, and I already knew the history of the place. When me and Bruno (the film director) got there, we went to speak with the community president, Mrs. Selma and she received us very well. After explaining our idea to her, she introduced us to some people, and that is how we got started. Then one family introduced us to others, and the kids from that place were always around, wanting pictures and to be filmed; in a way, we felted absorbed by the community and after 3 weeks filming we had a story! Many times we spent an entire day inside a family`s house observing their way of life, from very early in the morning to late into the night! Bruno Jorge, as a formal documentary director, has some devices to get the people to answer some hard questions about their lives; together we developed a very friendly atmosphere.

A.P: When can we look forward to seeing the entire Documentary?

F.P: At this time, we have started to send the film to festivals around the world. The idea is to have the film selected in an international festival, have the preview there, and them make a premiere here in São Paulo. After that, we can start the film distribution.

To see more work from Fernanda Preto, visit Aurora Photos.