AN INTERVIEW WITH PHOTOCOMMENT – UDO KIESLICH
CODP lecturer, Udo Kieslich, was interviewed a few weeks ago by Tristan from Photocomment Magazine . It´s well worth subscribing to the magazine as it´s online and it´s free, which is always cool! If you´d like to take a look at the latest magazine as well as the article click here
When did your interest in photography start?
I guess I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs. My folks bought me a Minolta when I was a kid and ever since then I’ve been snapping away. As my knowledge was very limited my results were pretty average, but I had fun exploring the world through a lens. I only really began to understand the camera properly when I studied photography in 2001. After this the technical stuff began to make more sense, my results improved somewhat and that’s when the bug really bit as I now had the knowledge to capture a scene the way I imagined it. Haven’t looked back since…
What made you decide to start a photographic college?
After my studies I started a photographic business with one of my class mates David Randel. Soon afterwards we were frequently asked the question by people around us of “where can I study photography in Johannesburg?” We soon realized that there was a gap in the market as there were very few places to learn photography on a part time basis. And so it all began, where we started sharing our knowledge and passion in photography from our studio in Craighall Park. From there we moved to our current premises in Saxonwold and now have campuses in Fourways, Roodepoort and Pretoria.
What is the most important thing you can teach someone about photography?
Hmmm, tough one as there a number of fundamental principles that are important to understand in photography. One of the most important things would be to gain an understanding of light – the term “Photography” comes from the Greek and means to draw or to paint with light, so without light photography would not exist. Where beginners go wrong is that they expect a camera to capture light in the same way as their eyes, but one of the first things we teach our new students is that the camera records light very differently. The camera can only record a much narrower range of contrast than what the eye can see which often results in photographs with very dark shadows or blown out highlights. Learn to photographer in lower contrast light ie early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is much softer and the colour of light at these times of day does wonders to enhance the mood in the image.
Do you believe that a person must have an “eye” for creating an image or is it a skill that can be learnt?
Photography and composition are definitely skills that can be learnt. Some people inherently have a natural eye but for those who believe they don’t have a creative bone in their body, don’t stress – these skills can be learnt with lots of practice, which trains the visual eye.
What differentiates a professional from a weekend warrior?
They have more kit… No, I think the biggest differentiator is that a professional has the correct technical skills, photographic experience and knowledge, and understands how to approach a specific shoot. A professional should have a great understanding of how to use light to shape a subject or enhance a scene. Nowadays it’s also important to have good computer skills and be proficient in a programme like Adobe Photoshop.
What advice would you give to a photographer, novice or pro, who may be feeling uninspired?
Try photographing something that you don’t normally photograph or experiment with a new creative technique. You can also set yourself the task of exploring the world with your camera from a dog’s eye level for a few hours – you’ll be amazed at how different and interesting things look from a much lower level. Lastly if that isn’t working, go to Exclusive Books or CNA and browse through the multitude of local and international photography magazines and books, which I find always inspires me to go out and photograph.
What is your favourite type of photography?
Probably studio work – not people, but rather creative product photography. I also really enjoy painting with light – where you start with a subject in a completely dark room and then start adding different light sources to the scene – both onto the subject and on the background / foreground. Here you can use anything that emits light – a candle, a torch, a laser pointer, zippo fluid, sparklers etc. You can also play around with the colour of light by folding different colours of cellophane gels over the front of a small maglite.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
I always recheck all the equipment in my camera bag, clean the front and back elements of the lenses, recharge the camera batteries, make sure I have a spare set of batteries for the flash, check that all the memory cards have been downloaded and formatted, and lastly I double check the important settings on my camera. If the shoot involves studio lighting then I test each light and make sure that the remote trigger is working as well.
In all honesty which do you prefer film or digital?
What’s film? We did start the College of DIGITAL Photography after all 🙂 Digital photography is convenient, it’s instant, your learning curve tends to be better as you can instantly pick up on mistakes and it’s cost effective as there are no film and processing costs. I also believe that digital has revolusionised photography in particular with the high ISO settings that are now available on many of the cameras. Some professional models now go up to 102400 ISO which allows you to photograph action while hand holding the camera, without using flash, in very low light. Also the image quality at high ISO’s now far exceeds that of film. Film still has its place if you enjoy long time exposure photography such as photographing star trails where the exposure times can often be 3 to 4 hours long. With a digital camera I wouldn’t recommend exposure times of longer than 20 – 30 minutes as the image begins to get pretty noisy after this.
What plans do you have for the future?
We would like to expand the College into Cape Town and Durban, and then also look at offering online courses. Then I’m also driving a project called the 7 seconds network which is destined to become a portal for all things photographic, so watch this space!