Location: San Francisco, CA
When he was just a kid, Justin Fantl became interested in photography with his dad showing him the technical ins and outs of how a camera worked. The New Hampshire native is drawn to subtleties in the places and objects that people walk by every day, and tries to create images that are metaphoric and lasting. His work has appeared in Communication Arts, Photo District News, Dwell, The New York Times T magazine, San Francisco, Fortune and more. He’s also a member of an online art collective called The Black Harbor, which showcases work by prominent young photographers, designers, illustrators and other artists.
I attended the San Francisco Studio School as well as the Academy of Art. I received my MFA in photography in May of 2008. My interest in photography started when I was young, teaching myself on my family’s old Olympus. Prior to going to graduate school, I was a working photographer for a local Jackson Hole paper.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
I learned that an authentic and relentless pursuit is the only way you’ll ever achieve any sort of success—success defined not by monetary rewards or by industry accolades, but by personal development and growth of your art. You must work, work and work some more, regardless of whether anyone is paying attention.
What was your first job?
My first job as a photographer was an assignment from a weekly newspaper in Jackson Hole, Wyo., to photograph the annual Demolition Derby. It was dusty, noisy, raw and fun as hell.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
I would tell anyone in school to shoot as much and as wide a range of things as possible. Look at every single art book you can find, go to museums, go to shows, engage your peers and community and, most importantly, stay true to how you see the world.
What inspires you about photography?
It forces you to face the world around you as well as yourself. It’s difficult to create an image without a conscious acknowledgment of a moment, an emotion, a design or an idea.
What makes you go out and shoot?
I go out and shoot mainly because I just love taking pictures. It can often be a meditative sort of process, and it is a means by which I explore the world and myself.
What do you like best about the whole process?
I like the idea that you can create something that becomes timeless or metaphoric. The notion that someone looking at an image years later, on the other side of the world, can look at a photograph and it can give them pause and cause a moment of reflection. This is continually intriguing and propels me forward.
How long have you been shooting?
I have been shooting since I was about 12 years old. I started on an Olympus OM-1 35mm.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
A Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a Hasselblad H3DII, a Mamiya 7 II and a Shen-Hao 4×5.
What’s your favorite piece of Canon gear?
The EF 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM lens because it’s sharp, light, compact and fast, and it does well in low light.
To see more of Justin Fantl’s work, go to www.justinfantl.com.