Friday, June 15, 2007
I Embraced The Road - Colin Finlay
You have to get in close to see the truth. Colin Finlay has made a career of bringing that truth to the eyes of the world—stories that aren't always pretty, but need to be told
His assistant was using a Kingston 15-in-1 card reader to download Finlay's Kingston 100X Ultimate CompactFlash cards. Says Finlay, “I've always worked with 10 in my bag, and I number them sequentially, one through 10. Every shoot starts with card number one. I also reformat every card the night before a shoot. That way I don't have to reformat while I'm on a job. Worse comes to worst, I always have a fourth backup—the cards themselves. I always err on the side of caution.”
The focus of the shoot was “lifestyle advertising.” Finlay explains that he was capturing moments that existed for 1⁄250 sec. or less: “I was looking for moments that were real. I was searching for the photographs between the photographs. I needed carefree improvisation. In these shoots, I'm really crunching numbers—pushing the zeros and ones to the end.”
While Finlay was shooting, his digital assistant was in the trailer downloading images off of the CF card to the laptop. Another assistant shuttled back and forth between Finlay and the digital tech, exchanging CF cards to keep the digital pipeline fluid. After Finlay returned with his last CF card and the images were downloaded, he gave the client all the JPEGs on a USB flash drive. After the shoot, Finlay then downloaded all the files onto his hard drive, making further backups to other drives and DVD-ROM.
“My tech had already burned DVD backups during the day, so I was fine with only one,” he says.
Given his prolific and extensive background in film-based photography, Finlay makes every effort to blend traditional photographic techniques, his aesthetic sensibility and the latest digital tools to communicate as effectively as possible.
When it comes to shooting digital, it's subconscious. Says Finlay, “I know how to walk and don't have to look at my feet while I'm walking. I know how the tools work, and it's no effort to switch between the two.” Some clients will want a Tri-X '60s rock 'n' roll look, and Finlay will know exactly what to do.
It has been Finlay's experience that working in digital provides tremendous creative opportunities: “I can sit in front of an image with a basic toolset like Photoshop and ask myself, ‘Where do I want to take this?' I can spend hours tweaking just one image. I'll often try to find a common palette for a series of images I've taken. There's so much room for interpretation with one image—I simply find it beautiful!”
As a photographer, “It's all up to you in terms of what you want to create,” he says. “I love making mistakes because I learn so much more that way. And Photoshop is recording everything I do in the history palette.”
From civil conflict to commercial advertising shoots to videography, Finlay is a dedicated documentary photographer who doesn't want to be pigeonholed: “I don't want to be known as just the war guy. I want to keep it fresh. I want to be in the middle of it. I have to come out of the experience stinky, having experienced life for what it truly is.”
Finlay's current project is to put together a 22-year history of the Sudan. He's working with Magnum, VII Photo Agency and the Holocaust Museum to educate as many people as possible that more than 12.5 million people have been displaced. The first part will offer a historical perspective, showing the work of other photographers over the past 22 years; the second part will cover what has been happening from 2003 until the present.
Photojournalism will always remain Finlay's mainstay, but he'll continue to accept work for advertising campaigns and corporate annual reports. “I take on the advertising to keep things fresh and exciting,” he says.
Adds Finlay, “Digital photographic tools are worth using only if you can tell a story, make effective social change and motivate people to do something about it. I take pictures to affect social change. I want my work to motivate others.”
Such work isn't easy, regardless of camera, flash card or imaging software.
To see more of Colin Finlay's photography, visit www.colinfinlay.com.
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