Thursday, November 22, 2007

Travis Dove interview - Part B

Photo © Travis Dove

Ann Wilson's dog, Tobias Bubba, gives her a look from his floatable board, which is tied to Wilson as she swims on Lake Norman outside of her home in Denver, N.C. Wilson swims in the lake while towing Tobias just about every day the weather permits.
Please read Travis Dove's biography, Part A of this interview and see the images on his Web site.

Bryon Houlgrave a pro in Wisconsin said, Travis, congratulations on the recognition. It's very well deserved as your portfolio is full of solid, well executed work.

Could you talk about your own style when it comes to approaching your subjects? Your images seem to show that you blended in well with your subjects, and that they weren't really aware of your presence.

A huge part of taking good pictures is putting yourself in a situation where that's a possibility. Part of it is, certainly, finding the right subject, who's going to be able to ignore you eventually. Another part of it is staying with them for a long time. (laughs)

Spending a lot of time with them.

If there's a magic formula, then that's it:   finding the right subject and spending a lot of time there.
Houlgrave continues, Could you discuss your views on the importance of internships, and what you've gleaned from your experiences at The Charlotte Observer, The Augusta Chronicle and The Valley News? How does that practical experience compliment what's taught at Wake Forest, or Ohio University?
I'll take this question chronologically. At Wake Forest I was shooting photography as a hobby. That's just the place where I learned I like pictures on a very basic level.

At The Augusta Chronicle, I started to get a feel for the daily grind of working as a photojournalist:   the whole 9-to-5 aspect of pumping out publishable work on a daily basis.

At The Valley News, I was given a lot more freedom to succeed and freedom to fail. They gave you a lot of space for photographs at that paper. I had one page dedicated to pictures every month - dedicated to my photographs, which is awesome and really rare in this business. That was an amazing learning experience for me.

At The Charlotte Observer, I tried to take all those things I learned at The Augusta Chronicle about pumping out daily work, and things I learned at The Valley News about shooting picture stories and put them together and used them in a much bigger venue.

The whole time, I was trying to find people who were going to be helpful to me and help me grow as a photographer.

At OU, part of what I'm doing here is filling in the gaps - things I didn't learn at some of these internships like how to shoot video, how to record audio. Practical things like that.

Like I said earlier, I'm learning how to shoot for a feeling and avoid shooting for a process.
Houlgrave continues, How are colleges teaching multimedia today? Do you get much exposure to video production or slideshows? Do you see multimedia in your future, or are your ambitions more designed toward photojournalism?

Thank you, and congratulations again. Best of luck.

Thank you very much.

We do get some exposure to multimedia. I think they're going to start requiring it here in the future. It's not a requirement right now. I took an audio class last year, and I took a video class last year. I had a lot of fun in those classes, and I feel like they taught me a lot about storytelling in general. It's helped my photography too.

I definitely see multimedia in my future. I enjoy it, and I think it can be powerful if done well.

Most of the multimedia that I've done for myself have been a combination of audio, video and stills. It's not perfect for every situation at all. There's certain times when it's really helpful in telling a story.

Do you think it's important to the industry?
Yes. I do. I think the industry has a lot to learn about audio and video, and so do I. (laughs)

I'm guessing that if you showed some of my video clips to somebody, who's been doing television for 30 years, they'll probably think that I'm terrible. (laughs)

The industry has a long way to go but the growing popularity of Internet news, it's crucial.

Tried it in a professional environment on deadline?
It is extremely challenging and frustrating. That's one of the reasons I said it's not perfect for all situations. A lot of the time you're going to be sacrificing some photographs to get this video. It's important to pick and choose your battles in this situation.

That being said, one of the pictures in my portfolio actually came from an assignment where I was shooting video and stills on deadline. It was the photo of the lady with her dog on a raft.

Man that was an experience. I almost didn't get that picture. (laughs) Oh man, that assignment was something else.

[The equipment] was waterproof at first.

I had heard that this lady swims every day with her dog. So, I brought basically the entire pool of equipment to this assignment. I had long lenses, monopods, tripods, video camera, one of those Ewa underwater bags. I had tons of stuff. I had three cameras because I had no idea where I was going to be able to go for the shot. I brought my bathing suit, obviously.

When I got there, I ended up borrowing this little life belt thing from this lady's husband. I swam out there with The Observer's camera in one of those underwater housing kits. I'm following her out there, and I started taking some photos. I was kind of struggling because I had never done underwater photography before. It's hard. It's so hard. (laughs)

I started taking a couple of pictures and the battery died in the camera. I had to swim back to the dock and take everything out of the underwater bag. Put a new battery in the camera. Locked it back up. Swam back out there. I started shooting some more photos, and I'm looking at the back of the screen and everything is black.

I had set the camera to automatic and the sky was so bright and it was reflecting off the water. You couldn't see anything. It was way, way underexposed.

I was like, "None of these pictures are going to work."

I swam back to the dock again. Dried my hands off. Grabbed the video camera. Shot some video from the dock. Put that down. Grabbed my personal still camera. Didn't put it in the bag, and just swam out there with my camera just praying I didn't drop it into the water.

I probably got five or six publishable frames from that assignment, and that was one of them. But that entire day I was constantly taking still photos, putting that camera down, picking up my video camera, shooting that.

It's hard to tell a story with video when you're constantly debating in your head, "Should I be shooting stills or should I be shooting video right now?"

It's hard. That's why I say you have to choose your battles with that. The video ended up being pretty horrible I think. (laughs)
When do you decide what tool to use?
It's certainly dependent on the subject matter. I don't know if there are hard-and-fast rules. You just have to go with your gut on that.

There's certainly times when you start talking to your subject, and they have an emotional response to the topic. That's very audible. It's a good time to pick up your video camera and start recording.
Better to keep them wired?
(Laughs) Yea. That's so tough though. I can't see myself ever doing that actually. I can't see myself wiring somebody up from the beginning, waiting on them to say something and pressing record.

I don't think my brain works that way where I can do both at the exact same time. I have to keep putting one down and picking the other up.

I don't know how you can do both at the same time. It would make my brain overload. I have to be committed to one or the other. (laughs)

The thing that's frustrating to me with shooting video and frame grabs or whatever is the depth of field. I can't get over the fact that I can't really affect the aperture in a way that I'm used to.
Michael Rubenstein, a pro and OU alumni now living in Mumbai, India asks, Every year the judges at CPOY choose one photographer to be the photographer of the year. Every year thousands of photographers submit work. I'm sure that you've viewed the podcasts for this year's judging, and I'd like to know which images and which photographers stuck out in your mind as the cutting edge of photojournalism. In addition which of your peers would you say give you the biggest push to keep on keepin' on.

The first person that comes to mind is Dominic Nahr. His work was inspirational. I really admire the effort that it must have taken for him to do so much work abroad. That's really inspiring that a student would have that much drive.

Some of the other work that I found to be really strong was like Benjamin Reed from the University of Missouri - his work in the Sports Portfolio. Earlier, I was talking about capturing a feeling rather than a process. One of the places where that's really difficult is when you're photographing sports. I feel he does that really well. That work stuck out.

My fellow students. Wow. They're all amazing.

This girl, Kainaz Amaria, is always, always, always raising the bar and putting in 110 percent with every assignment. I think that's awesome. She pushes everybody in the class.

If I was being truthful about it, I would name every student in my grad class - all 10 of them.
You won a Boy Scout photography award when you were 8 years old. What was the subject of that image?
(Laughs) It was a basketball goal.

It's funny because we talk a lot now about photographing things that are important to you or relevant to you, and that is exactly what I was doing at that time in my life. I loved basketball. So, that's what I took a picture of. I guess that part of it is kind of instinctive.
Judging from the Boy Scout experience you started photography young. When did you start to think of it seriously?
It was something that I always knew that I liked. It's not that I didn't take it seriously. It's that I didn't think that I could do it. I didn't think that I could do it well until, probably, my first internship. That's when I started thinking this could be a career for me.

That was after my undergraduate experience. I was between undergraduate and graduate school at that point.

This is how it happened:   I graduated college and I knew I liked photography, but I thought I wanted to be in advertising or something like that.
You're undergrad degree didn't prepare you for PJ work?
No. Not at all. I didn't take anything close to a journalism class. But, I did take some photography/art courses. Those concentrated a lot more on the art aspect and a lot less on the photography aspect.

So when I got out, I thought I wanted to do something in advertising. I know I had an interest in photography, but I didn't think I was a photographer.

I got a couple of internships in Boston. One of them I was working for a photo rep and the other I was assisting the studio of a commercial photographer up there.

The whole time I was up there, I felt like I enjoyed the photography aspect of everything I was doing, but I didn't feel like my work had as much meaning as I wanted it to have.

After those internships, I moved down to North Carolina to be closer to my girlfriend. I was really trying to make some money. So, I thought I could find some photographers around the area to assist for.

I started calling people. I was getting a lot of rejections. There weren't a lot of commercial photographers in Durham, North Carolina for me to assist. I came across the Web site of this photographer named John Loomis.

I saw his work, and I thought and it stuck out at me as being a lot different than most of the photography that I had seen in the past.

I thought that he didn't need an assistant for a lot of the work that he was doing, but I thought I'd just give him a call anyway and give it a shot.

I called him and he told me that he didn't need an assistant, but I asked him if he would mind meeting with me and just telling me a little bit about what he does.

We met for coffee a couple of days later and that's kind of where my interest in photojournalism started.

At that point, I wasn't taking anything completely seriously. I didn't just leave the meeting and say, "I'm going to be a photojournalist now."

But, I knew I was more interested in photojournalism than advertising.
John Loomis, a pro in Miami asks, Describe the significance of "Bull-Moose" to your photographic process.
(Laughs) Oh man! (Laughs) I can't believe he asked that question. (laughs)

Bull-Moose is a drinking game that I told him about on one of our many, long roadtrips while I was an assistant for him. (laughs)

I don't think that really has any significance whatsoever. (laughs)
Loomis continues, As someone who went to school at a predominantly non-photo university, how has that affected your growth and passion for the industry and the way that you envision yourself entering into the field?
I'm really glad that I didn't go to a predominantly photojournalism school as an undergrad. At that point in my life I just wasn't ready to take it seriously. But, I did get a lot out of my experience in college. I think it was good for me.

I learned a lot about business and about the world and about who I was. That experience helped me to grow as a person - not necessarily as a photographer.

Because Wake Forest is more of a business school, that's probably one of the reasons I was interested in becoming a commercial photographer when I first left school. To be honest. Because I was a lot more concerned about money when I first came out of there.

It wasn't until a little bit later when I started thinking that's not the most important thing in my life.

Please read Part C of this interview.

Enough for now,

No comments: