DPP Home Profiles Douglas Kirkland - A Conversation With The Man

Monday, January 7, 2008

Douglas Kirkland - A Conversation With The Man

Douglas Kirkland is one of the great masters of photography. Today, he continues to shoot and spends time speaking to students and up-and-coming photographers around the world.

Digital Photo Pro: How have things changed from when you started?

Kirkland: At one time, it was comparatively simple. I had my Canon or Nikon and a light meter, and we'd buy film, and I'd have half a dozen lenses, a Dynalite and we'd go out on assignments. That was pretty straightforward, but now as the computer age has come in, it's completely transformed.

Digital Photo Pro: How has digital changed the way you shoot?

Kirkland: It has made a mark on me, but what I try to do with digital as much as possible is still to shoot almost blind. What I mean by that is that I don't want to be showing my subject the pictures every five seconds. People ask me if I have a monitor in the studio. No, I don't want a screen there. I don't want to get so focused on the monitor that we lose the momentum.

Digital Photo Pro: You're producing much of your own prints for sale using the HP series of printers, including the Designjet Z3100. What does it mean to have complete control of your images from capture to output?

Kirkland: The printers are very helpful there. We can put things together from scratch. How has that changed things? It allows you to embrace the entire project as much as you want to or need to. You don't necessarily want to do it all because it all takes time, but when there's something very special that you want to do and you want your own hand on it, you can do it.

Digital Photo Pro: You began your career working for Look and Life magazines, and in many ways, you've had a career that no one else had or ever will have again. What was different about beginning then as compared to now?

Kirkland: The doors were open, and that's what you'll see when you look at the images in Freeze Frame. I spent a month traveling with Judy Garland. That's unthinkable today. I spent a month with Vanessa Redgrave, and you can see that in the pictures. You couldn't do things like that if you only had one hour with someone. You lived with people during that time, working with those magazines. That value of working on a story for Life or Look was such that all the doors were open to you once you were known and trusted. That was my good fortune.

Digital Photo Pro: But Look and later Life stopped publishing, and it points to the issue that has to be faced by any professional photographer: uncertainty. How did you deal with that?

Kirkland: Look Magazine folded, and I thought my life had ended. Then I went to Life, where I was for a few years, and then they folded, but then People Magazine opened up almost immediately. I worked for many European publications during the '70s and '80s and several science publications. I tried to never let anything slip through my fingers because I really valued my good fortune for being able to work in this field. I had such a love for it and I still do. It changed and evolved and I rolled over with it.


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