DPP: Working in large format tends to create very disciplined photographers. There's no motordrive button to hold down.
Habib: Even now for my portrait work, with my Canon 5D Mark III, I don't shoot that much. You know when you've got it, and usually it's within the first few frames. It's strange; it always seems to work that way.
DPP: How do you work with people to get them into the right mood for what you're trying to convey in a photograph?
Habib: The key is to get people to not be conscious of the camera. The biggest trick is to get them relaxed. I meet them and we're just chatting about whatever before we get on set, and then when on set, the conversation continues. Sometimes I'm pressing the trigger without looking through the viewfinder. They're looking at me and we're talking with each other. Within those few moments, I also take some more serious ones. I'm handholding the camera, looking through the viewfinder, then back out. It's just a chat. I've always been interested in people. I love meeting people and chatting with them.
DPP: Like the late Irving Penn, who you cite as an influence, you do extremely well with people and still lifes. It's a tribute to your shared graphic sensibilities and people skills.
Habib: I really like the graphic nature of still lifes, but if I were always in a studio shooting them, it would get boring for me. Things have changed a lot. I had a studio in London for many years, then I started shooting a lot of still lifes in rented studios in Paris. At the time, it was unusual because it seemed like still-life photographers had to have their own studios. That got me thinking that I shouldn't get stuck to one place. I liked the idea of traveling, even for still lifes, then packing my stuff up at the end of a shoot. 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.
You can see more of Philip Habib's work at philiphabib.com.
« Prev 4/4 Next