He's got a lens with a view

He's got a lens with a view

candid capture

He's got a lens with a view

Brian Smith, the incredibly talented, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, who is known for his iconic celebrity photo portraits, his brilliant news photography coverage and his work in the field of sports, enjoys watching the world through a lens.

Whether it is a burlesque dancer, a Hollywood A-lister, a star swimmer, a skilled diver or a nudist golfer, he captures unique images and brings their stories to life with his vast expertise and skill.

The renowned lensman, who has spent over 30 years in the industry, was in the country recently as a speaker at the photography conference, PEP Asia that was held in Mumbai.

In an exclusive interview with Brian Smith, it was evident that he is passionate about his profession and believes that the best photographs are shot from the heart. Read on...

 Can you tell us about the PEP Asia conference that brought you to India?

The lectures at the conference were on how to make a career in photography, like portrait work and photography for sports, news and different web channels. I have been to Agra and 
Rajasthan before, but this was my first visit to Mumbai.

How did you start your career as a photographer?

I started shooting photographs for our local newspaper when I was in high school. I used to have around four to five assignments in a month. Once I left school, I began shooting pictures for articles and columns in college and later, I began to shoot professionally.

How did your work at the ‘Miami Herald’ help you build your skills?

One of the great things about working for newspapers is that you do a little bit of everything, and you shoot a lot. As a newspaper photographer, you need to work five days a week and shoot for three or four assignments a day. It helped do away with the uncertainty of work, and the wide range of assignments helped me get a perspective on working harder.

 What has winning the Pulitzer Prize meant to you?

Well, it has certainly opened up a few doors in terms of work, exposure and more projects. I am happy that people still remember it. It really puts you in a position of being able to use the honour to get to the next thing you are doing in your career.

What would you say are your best photographs and why?

There are a lot of pictures that I love for different reasons. There are several portraits, report pictures that I love. So, I can’t really narrow it down to one picture, but I think that there are always some significant pictures in your career that you will always remember. You can look back to the memory of it and of what made that special photograph happen. I think that this is a driving force for every photographer.

 What is the most difficult part of portrait photography?

The most challenging aspect is finding a way to connect with your subject. It is really the most important thing. Sometimes, it’s very easy for you to connect but some people are different. In such cases, we need to actively take charge and try to 
connect with the subject.

 How do you take shots of people who are not models or celebrities?

Candid photography is really about observing a subject’s behaviour. I did some photography for people who are not models, and the portraits were amazing. You have to find ways to make people comfortable. This will push their awkwardness away from the photography and to something else.

 What is the hardest photograph you have ever taken?

I think there are different photographs for different reasons and there is certainly some fear involved with sports photography and news photography, because you don’t have a second chance. This is also true for live photography where you just have that one moment to make it. You have to capture that moment and that’s the challenge for that sort of work. You need to always keep checking the surroundings and speculating about the shot because you don’t know what may happen in a few minutes.

 How would you describe your photographic style?

I like to think that my photographs make people smile whether it is a work-related picture or a personal photo. Whatever the subject matter is, I want someone looking at the photograph to feel that they are there.

 Who is your all-time favourite celebrity that you like to work with?

I personally loved working with Anne Hathaway and Richard Branson.

 How do you balance your work life and your family?

One of the good things about my profession is that I get to work with my wife and we really enjoy working together.

 What is your advice to a budding photographer?

Shoot photographs from the heart. Take pictures of what you love to shoot. Try to work harder than the next person because there are so many people who are also out there with their cameras and working hard every day. It is only hard work that will put you ahead and further than everyone else.

 How has this age of selfies and smart phones diminished the importance of beautifully taken photographs?

I think that the trend of taking selfies has led to more people developing an interest in photography than ever before. So, I don’t see it as an unhealthy trend. I see people taking better selfies and it is one way of keeping people interested in photography and inspiring them to do it even better.


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