Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Al Satterwhite - Fields Of Color
Al Satterwhite made his mark with saturated color design. His refusal to be categorized has allowed him to leave it virtually everywhere.
Not surprisingly, Al Satterwhite was an army brat. Born in Biloxi, Miss., his childhood followed the postings of his army father—to Germany, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Georgia and eventually Florida—resulting in an imagination rooted less in place than the possibility of places. His photographic career has been no less peripatetic.
“I used to work for a newspaper when I was in high school, which was how I stumbled into photography,” he says. “I was going off to college to study aerospace engineering, but that didn't last a year before I realized that I really loved photography.” And so he traded supersonic zooms for the kind you affix to the business end of a camera.
All The Tools
Satterwhite has been involved with digital photography since the mid-'80s and notes the importance of its increasing affordability and ease of use in driving the industry inexorably toward a deep digital foundation.
“Kodak hired me as a digital consultant when they were first getting into the technology, so for a couple of years, I was almost exclusively immersed in it,” he says. “I remember spending $15,000 on RAM that today probably costs about $15.”
These days, Satterwhite carries a Nikon D2H high-speed sports camera and a D1X, which he uses interchangeably. Typically he shoots a mix of digital and film.
“I just did a job for Sports Illustrated and everything for them is digital delivery,” he notes. “Shoot digital, then you upload it to their site—no more dealing in negatives and those Sunday Learjet flights to Chicago for the closing cover story. It's a learning curve, and you're either in it or you're not.”
He says that shooting digital doesn't really have a strong effect on the subject matter—unless you're in a situation where you'd normally be shooting Polaroids.
“With a digital camera, you can just go click, bang, look at it and move on,” he says. “And you know you can edit really fast. Where I might shoot three rolls of film and then have to look at them later, I can fill up a 512-megabyte card and then, in between whatever is going on at the shoot, I can do a really quick edit and get rid of obvious stuff like camera blur or closed eyes or just bad frames. You can delete, delete, delete, and end up with one card instead of three rolls of film. You can do a lot in the field that way.”