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: Your reputation and body of work don't protect you from those inevitable shifts in the market do they?

Kirkland: I had a big crash in the '90s as many photographers did. I was doing six to eight assignments for Newsweek and suddenly that stopped. For 22 years, I traveled for Town and Country Magazine, shooting mainly fashion all over the world, and the editor of Town and Country retired and the person who came in afterward didn't want any of the same people who had been there.

Digital Photo Pro: So how do you survive and stay competitive in a market like that?

Kirkland: Let me answer the question with several answers. First, you have to keep confidence in yourself. Say that I've done this long enough and I've got to continue being able to do this. I'm not ready to roll over and die because I like this work too much. That's number one. Number two is what's new? Is there something there that I can have fun with, that I can explore? Also, it's important that you haven't thrown all your money away. If you live in a sufficiently conservative way to have some savings, it helps enormously.

Digital Photo Pro: What's your take on so many people buying digital cameras and believing they can become professional photographers?

Kirkland: I've thought a lot about that in the last year or so, and I observe it more and more, and I think it's very true. Many people who wouldn't have been able to take a picture 20 or 30 years ago because they would have had to use a meter and learned how to focus the camera can get good results now. They get a digital camera, which does most of that for them, and they think they're a genius.

Digital Photo Pro: What do you think is missing from the work being produced by such people, even those who are professional?

Kirkland: Getting along with people. Being able to connect with people with the camera and without it is all part of it. That's one of the skills of shooting. If somebody is relaxed and comfortable with you and ready to really work with you and you're plugged into their head, that's where good pictures come from. How can you go out today and not expect to connect with people?

Digital Photo Pro: That really comes with experience. Yet, in this industry isn't it easy to be pigeonholed into either having too little or too much?

Kirkland: As you start your career, people may say that he or she doesn't have enough experience. After you've been in a few years, they'll say that he or she has been around for too long. They're not fresh. You have to answer all of those questions and all of those things will happen.

Digital Photo Pro: And how do you do that?

Kirkland: You have to find ways of showing that you have experience and you have to find ways of keeping fresh and being able to let people know that you're still thinking. You have to instill confidence. And there always will be those who are there to question you or put you down.


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