10 Minutes with Randal Ford
When did you first know that you wanted to pursue photography as a career?
It was one of those few times in life where you have such clarity in how to go forward. A true “aha” moment if that doesn’t sound too sappy. I was a junior in college surfing the web between classes. I had been shooting for the school newspaper and really starting to fall in love with photography. However I never actually considered it as a career until this moment. I was a business student so doing something “creative” was never on the top of my job list. I figured they were all starving artists out there. But as I sat there surfing the web, checking out photography sites, I thought to myself, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can build a career around something I love and that I’m passionate about. I don’t have to follow the rules of a business student to become successful. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a photographer. The next 2 years of college, I shot constantly but continued to work towards my business degree. In those business classes, I was constantly thinking how I could apply classic business theory to photography. And my final track within the business school was small business and entrepreneurship, which most certainly is applicable to commercial photography. I was dedicated and in a furious pursuit of a career in photography.
Tell me about your book, The Amazing Faith of Texas. How did you come up with the concept and what kind of feedback have you been getting?
5 years ago, GSD&M (now Idea City Austin) commissioned me to to be the photographer for a coffee table book called The Amazing Faith of Texas. 100 pages, at least 50 photographs, me being the exclusive shooter for the book. A sort of dream job for a young photographer and definitely a big break in a tough industry. I shot images for this book about Faith in Texas. I traveled all over Texas photographing people of different faiths and photographing churches, synagogues, places of worship. From tiny run down churches in West Texas to mega-churches in Houston, I covered a very wide range. More than the environments, the people were what really got a hold of me. It was inspiring to meet people with such strong Faith. Whether that was Judaism or Christianity or something else, they all had what the book calls common ground on higher ground. And my goal was to visually try to capture the essence of that higher ground or at least a piece of it. It was a very challenging and rewarding assignment. I matured immensely as a photographer and I’m forever grateful to Roy Spence and the people at Idea City for the amazing opportunity.
On top of your stellar human portraits, you make some really great photos with animals. I particularly love your Cow calender and the posters you did for the Austin Humane Society. Did you come up with the concepts for the Humane Society and what’s it like working with these (wonderful) beasts?
I love working with animals. It’s always different, always exciting, and often unpredictable. I first got into photographing animals through the Cows assignment. The illustrious DJ Stout of Pentagram hired me to shoot them. We built a location studio in a barn on a cold day in Central Texas. It went great but let’s just say the cows ruined a lot of our seamless backgrounds. After working with cows, I started to shoot a variety of animals. I especially have enjoyed photographing dogs and cats lately. The posters for the Austin Humane Society were created with the help of Door Number 3 in Austin. The most excellent and heart warming copy was written by the talented Phil Davies. It was a great all around collaboration for a good cause.
How can an editor be helpful when assigning a shoot to you?
2 words. Bigger budget! Ok, joking aside, I think communication is the most helpful asset an editor can have. Whether that’s communicating what they are looking for, intricacies of the shoot, budget, whatever, it is so helpful to know specifically what the editor is looking for.
Any new years resolutions?
Moderation in all aspects of my life. Food, Career, Family, Hobbies. Photographers have a habit of going to extremes (not just in their career but their personal life) and I’m no exception. In other words, I’m striving for a little more balance. We’ll see what 2011 brings.
(Randal is based in Austin, Texas. See more of his work here)