Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Frank Ockenfels: The Great Collaborator
Frank Ockenfels blends light and teamwork to shape his photographs and his career
The visual world of Frank Ockenfels doesn’t revolve around the myth of the isolated photographer working alone behind the camera’s viewfinder or staring at a computer monitor. Instead, his photographs reflect his ability to inform, educate and inspire those he works for and those who work for him.
“Having worked as a director, I understand the importance of being a collaborator,” Ockenfels says. “Regardless of what others may say, if you don’t collaborate, you’re screwed. Everyone has to work together. Everyone has to work as a team in order to make that final product. You can’t do everything.”
And whether the images are used to promote and market products, television shows, music albums or motion pictures, he thrives on the ability to face a myriad of challenges on the way, satisfying the photographic needs of his clients.
“I think people miss the point that great photographs come out of collaboration,” he says. “The photographer is responsible for the vision, but you have to listen to your assistants or anybody else who’s on the set, including the client. When I’m working as a photographer, I’m answering questions and trying to solve the problems of the moment.”
Ockenfels’ approach to lighting and composition is inspired not only by legendary photographers like Irving Penn, Robert Frank and Duane Michals, but also by painters such as Anselm Kiefer, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Their influence is seen in both his nuanced approach to lighting and the personalized sketches and notes that make up his illustrated notebooks.
The Art Of Problem-Solving
Though many clients may come to him with detailed drawings and illustrations of the photographs they want made, Ockenfels recognizes that they’re depending on him and his skills as a photographer to bring that concept into a visual reality. It’s not as simple as setting up lights and depressing a shutter-release button.
“Few people talk about the issue of problem-solving, and the issue is that they feel that the problem involves giving up,” he says. “I’m a commercial photographer, and if somebody has hired me and they’ve paid me to be there, I have to first try and do what I do. I have to be ready to present what I believe is the answer to the problem, and if they don’t agree with me and they want to go in a completely opposite direction, it doesn’t make sense to fight them. It only makes it more of a challenge, which is kind of fun to get them to come back around to see the better way of doing it or to polish their idea to the point that it’s the best that I can possibly do for them, even if it’s not what I wanted to do for them or which I don’t think is the answer. It’s still my job to produce a great image for them.”
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