DPP Home Profiles Philip Habib: Starting With A Blank canvas

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Philip Habib: Starting With A Blank Canvas

Philip Habib’s use of color, composition and whimsy in his portraits gives his photos a youthful and exuberant look

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The photographer has an almost graphic design approach to his work, as you can see from this minimalist portrait of digital tech writer Evgeny Morozov (above), which ran on the cover of Columbia Journalism Review.
DPP:  It's impressive that you can be such a strong still-life photographer and people photographer, for instance, at the same time. That's a rarity in the photography world. The common thread in all your work, be it portraits or food photography or still lifes, is the very graphic nature of the images.

Habib:  I like very simple and graphic images, and I like strong color. I love the work of Andy Warhol. Bill Brandt was a huge influence on me at one stage. Jeanloup Sieff, as well. Irving Penn had a huge influence on me. Chuck Close—I love his portraits. Very graphic and powerful.

DPP:  Like your image of chopsticks in a takeout container set in a red background. It's a great example of a graphic photo with strong Warhol-type colors. How do you create these types of images?

Habib:  A lot of them are shot separately. I shot the chopsticks and container on a neutral background, then created the red background and the shadowing in Photoshop. There's a bit of refining to do, but it's pretty straightforward.
I loved the idea of starting with a blank canvas. I found that my studio in London was bogging me down more than anything. I just let go of it and haven't had a studio since. I love the
freedom of it.
DPP:  How did you learn the craft of photography?

Habib:  I went to Mallinson's School of Photography on the Isle of Wight. That was a two-year course. It was basically black-and-white fine-art photography. We did landscapes and printing. Then I went to the New England School of Photography in Boston for two years. That was very commercially oriented. Their goal was for you to come out of the program with a commercial portfolio so you could go out and get work. That's where I learned the 8x10 and 4x5 cameras. I then assisted for about a year in Boston before opening my studio there in 1983. Then I went back to Europe in 1986 and opened a studio in London. In 1994, I based myself in Paris until 1997 when I came back to the States and settled in New York. I was shooting mostly 8x10 for the still lifes in Europe, but when I came here they seemed to prefer the 4x5, basically because it's quicker.


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