Interviews / Stories
Interview: Photographer James Allen Stewart (Denmark)
Tell us something about yourself
I'm a young man who is awful at not being honest. You could say it's because I am very impatient with things that are not supposed to be delayed, like conversation. I want to get to know someone, so I ask them “What do you feel about life?”, even though I've just met them. This scares some people, and they will call me “intense”, which I think sounds cool but I got a feeling it's meant in a more intimidating way. Either way, I'm okay with that.
How and when did you get into photography?
I was forced to use Photoshop on my education as a multimedia designer and I thought it was pretty cool. At some point I needed some stock photos so I borrowed my sisters camera. That was 3 years ago.
What does photography mean to you?
It gives me a break from the trivial nature of our society and lives. I can feel like a sheep, where I'm meant to eat, I'm meant to laugh, I'm meant to fall in love, and it feels like I'm just a part of a grand machine. When I take and edit photos I forget about all of that. I simply am. I'm not supposed to make art, yet I do. And I love it.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
Pretty pictures of pretty girls.
...No, I see my photography style as emotional messages. If a picture doesn't affect you, then it was a bad picture. I want to affect and create impressions that stays with you. Some people call my style “magical portraits”, and even though I really don't like that simplification, I guess it does have some truth to it.
I also do wedding photography that tries to be more different.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I try to avoid looking at other photographer's work so I wont be affected by it. One of the most toxic thoughts you can have as an artist is “oh this reminds me of so-and-so”. Everything has been made before, it is simply a matter of how well it's made. That's where you as an artist can make the difference and set the bar higher.
Do you plan in advance what you want from a picture?
Let's put it this way: Sometimes I try to plan. When I try, I go out of my way to prepare and bring props, and I really try to make something specific happen but I always end up with a completely different picture when I come home, and I've forgotten to use any of the props. Either I'm an idiot, or you just shouldn't try to force art.
Studio, on location or both?
For sure location. I want an image to look natural, as if someone was just caught in the moment of something. That's very hard to do in a studio where the light immediately reveals that this is a setup. But I enjoy studio shots for older more royal portrait styles.
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
I would probably consider myself a paid professional as I am paid and I am professional.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
It might have been shooting on top of a roof top in New York City when I was visiting from Denmark. It was slowly becoming dark and I had time to really feel the atmosphere. It's rare that I get to be in tune with the universe, but I feel like I had a moment there. It was beautiful.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
It's hard to tell. Brooke Shaden was the first photographer that really caught my eye, but I have moved very far from her today. But her way of creating emotions and mystery was certainly something I looked up to. I had a quick chat with her the other day about one of my images where I asked for critique because I wasn't satisfied with the image. She said it looked perfect, and even though I was flattered, I really wish she had just told me “I feel like this and that is wrong, and this could be different”. That's when I could use a blunt person in my life who says it like it is.
I still havent posted the image. It's almost a year ago.
Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?
I think the Nikon vs Canon discussion is a remnant from a time where technology was blooming and people were competing to have the best equipment possible. As any photographer would say: “it doesn't matter”, even though it does for some things. The specifications are there to read and compare, so it's simply up to you what you want to spend money on. I use Canon, but I might as well have used Nikon. I've had great experience with offbrand lenses like my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 USM lens, which is basically my only lens besides the Canon 24mm. F/2.4
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
Improving is a balance between self critique and enjoying the process. If you feel like you're enjoying the process, try asking yourself “..but could my photography become better and how?”. Then try to chase that for a while. Are you still enjoying the process? If yes, continue. That's the only way you can really improve. Push yourself and never lower your standards. The rest will come.
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