what a busy year it’s been. thank goodness that even though i haven’t spent much time with my camera, other people have been taking lots of great images. one of those active photographers is jim darling of washington, dc. jim has a knack for taking incredibly stunning and surprising portraits. if you’re in the dc area, check out jim’s work at the “iPhoneographers” show at fathom gallery (a cool “flexi-space” near logan circle) november 18, 19 and 21. the event will feature 10 of the area’s best iphone photographers each exhibiting 10 selected works from their collections. but today, just enjoy this interview with him! and make sure you follow jim in these places:
JC: Do you have a mission as a photographer? If yes, what is it?
JD: I never really thought about a personal mission. Creatively I guess I just want to create images that either produce an emotional response or tell a story. But in a broader sense, my mission is to spread the word of photographer’s rights and move past the idea that photography is a threat.
JC: Describe your photographic style or philosophy.
JD: My style might be considered street portraiture — which is different from ‘street photography’. Wherein I’m engaging with my subject to create a photograph that is personal and specific. And most often, only moments after meeting them. I try and capture the personality or show that a relationship between subject and photographer can exist and it’s my job to show it.
If I’m not taking portraits I generally use photography as an extension of my interest in graphic design and fine art. I’m usually looking for great composition with texture, color and found typography.
JC: What are you working on these days?
JD: I’m working on learning more about studio lighting and off-camera flash portraiture. After the past two years of shooting using natural light exclusively, I’m understanding the importance to grow as a photographer is to be well-versed with how to light professionally.
The other important area of focus, as I begin to shoot more for work, is to create a proper workflow for cataloging and editing my work. It’s the non-sexy side of photography for sure, but a system that must be in place.
JC: What do you love most about today’s technology?
JD: I have to admit I love the instant gratification of digital photography. I learned photography with film and spent lots of time in the darkroom so it’s not like I never got to experience that. I like to be able to review my shots at the scene, and know that I did or didn’t get a winner or two. No one can deny that the internet has become somewhat of a double-edge sword when it comes sharing your photos. The legal issues of copyright problems aside, the positive side of it, that I’ve taken full advantage of, is both the ability to get my work seen by a much larger audience; and discover other artists I might have never heard of.
JC: What do you dislike most about today’s technology? Has it presented you with any challenges?
JD: As I just mentioned the above, the idea that if you put your images on the internet for public VIEWING, then they are free for anyone to use is a frustrating misconception.
JC: Who are your inspirations?
JD: I love the painter Edward Hopper and the way he paints people. There’s a loneliness to them, even within a group. I love that you can invent a story about his work beyond what you simply see before you. The first photographers I first remember being inspired by are Annie Liebowitz and Richard Avedon and their portraits. I probably had the most exposure to artists like them due to my interest in music and film and the people in those industries they shot.
Presently I really love Noah Kalina and the short films of Hillman Curtis. Locally, DC has no shortage of inspiring artists and photographers. Many of whom I’ve come to know well and call friends. Josh Yospyn’s fashion and street portraits (on film!) are exquisite.
JC: Of all the gear you’ve ever used, what’s your favorite?
JD: I’m really just getting started with digital photography and I’m a little short on gear. I recently upgrade my DSLR to a Canon 7D and I’m enjoying getting to know what it can do. But I’m going to go with the camera on my iPhone. I’ve been able to produce some of my favorite images with it and the use of a single app. I love the spontaneity of it and being able to create art on the fly.
JC: What are your aspirations? Are there things, with regard to photography, that you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?
JD: There are many many things I’ve yet to do in regard to photography. I’m accepting jobs now where I have to learn how to use equipment or a technique the night before the shoot. It keeps things exciting. And even though I’ve had some exposure in some local shows I’m sure someday having my own solo show somewhere is something I’d enjoy.
JC: Why do you love photography?
JD: I love photography because it’s personal, it’s interactive, and it communicates. also I’ve been a graphic designer for over 15 years and I’d like to say that slowly but sure I’m becoming a photographer as well. And in shooting portraits I get to interact with my subject, experience their personality, and share mine — all while creating art. In-house, corporate design is a lot lonelier.
On a final note, the following is a scene from my favorite movie Annie Hall where they talk about photography but have lots of other things going on in their mind…
(pointing toward the apartment after a short pause)
So, did you do shoot the photographs in there or what?
(Nodding, her hand on her hip)
Yeah, yeah, I sorta dabble around, you know.
Annie’s thoughts pop on the screen as she talks: I dabble? Listen to me-what a jerk!
They’re … they’re… they’re wonderful, you know. They have … they have, uh … a … a quality.
As do Alvy’s: You are a great-looking girl
Well, I-I-I would-I would like to take a serious photography course soon.
Again, Annie’s thoughts pop on: He probably thinks I’m a yo-yo
Photography’s interesting, ’cause, you know, it’s-it’s a new art form, and a, uh, a set of aesthetic criteria have not emerged yet.
And Alvy’s: I wonder what she looks like naked?
Aesthetic criteria? You mean, whether it’s, uh, good photo or not?
I’m not smart enough for him. Hang in there
The-the medium enters in as a condition of the art form itself. That’s-
I don’t know what I’m saying-she senses I’m shallow
Well, well, I … to me-I … I mean, it’s-it’s-it’s all instinctive, you know. I mean, I just try to uh, feel it, you know? I try to get a sense of it and not think about it so much.
God, I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a shmuck like the others
Still, still we- You need a set of aesthetic guide lines to put it in social perspective, I think.
Christ, I sound like FM radio. Relax
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and images with us, Jim!