I had the opportunity to sit with photographer and filmmaker Eric Minh Swenson for a Q&A. Here are some highlights from that session.
My father, Lou Swenson, is a master fine art photographer who follows in the tradition of the heralded f/64 Group, a group of West Coast photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. He bought me my first camera, a fully manual-operated Pentax K1000 during the summer of my sophomore year in high school.
In my sophomore year, instead of sitting in the mini van while he was photographing the landscape with a medium format Arca-Swiss, he bought me my first camera to give me something to do. After shooting my first roll of film and processing them in his darkroom, it was clear to us that I had a strong sense of composition. After that moment, I knew I was to be a photographer and I went to work.
How has your work evolved since you first got started?
The days of film processing and printing in a darkroom are no longer for me. Since I was 16 all the way through my college years in the mid-late 90s I was shooting 35mm film and always had access to a darkroom. The feel of sloshing prints around with tongs in chemistry under a red light and the smell of developer and fixer are considered vintage methods now. My shooting methods are now instantaneous and rapid. I can shoot an art opening and have the images downloaded and uploaded onto social media or files sent to a client within a matter of hours.
Who are the photographers who have influenced you?
Through high school I began to break away from my fathers work and started studying fashion photographers. Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier, Richard Avedon, and celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz. Then the next push was through film cinematographers Robert Richardson, John Toll, and Sven Nykvist among others.
How do you choose your subjects to photograph?
Furthermore, as a photojournalist I photograph interesting people in general. People with certain character and eccentric lifestyles, and sex appeal.
What makes the most successful shoot for you?
What makes for the most interesting shoots?
When you photograph individual subjects how much time do you use to get to know them?
How much planning you do for each shoot and how much happens naturally?
You are also a film maker- how does each of these art forms relate to the others for you?
Furthermore, the films certainly distinguish me from other photographers who primarily focus on stills through smartphones and point and shoot cameras. The equipment I use are what the pros use, because I take myself seriously as a professional, opposed to being a hobbyist. What this ultimately means is that to film at the pro level I am working with large media files that requires a robust computer platform, up to date software, and plenty of storage space.
What is next for Eric Minh Swenson? What would be next for Eric Minh Swenson if sky was the limit?
Eric Minh Swenson is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer who documents the arts and culture of Southern California. He has filmed over 400 documentaries on artists and exhibitions. He focuses on process, concept and craft in his films, while finding humor and essence in his subjects.See more links on Eric Minh Swenson:
Photographs by Eric Minh Swenson