10 minutes with Max Hirshfeld

Interviews with Photographers November 28, 2011 7:28 am

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?\


Not sure I ‘knew’ as much as ‘felt’ the need to shoot pictures at an early age, possibly before I was a teen. Things like order, contrast and design were strong parts of my persona. I loved mechanical drawing in high school so I see now how the early rendering of three dimensions into two might have been a precursor to seeing intelligently with a camera. But no matter when it really started, I am continually thrilled that photography and I found each other. My passion for making pictures grows deeper every day and each time I pick up a camera I hope to make fewer mistakes than the day before, hoping to see with more clarity.

 

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

 

In your career as a photographer, you have witnessed huge changes in the editorial world. From the rise and decline of print, to the demand of secondary shots and video for the web and apps, the tightening of budgets, etc. — what changes have you seen that are positive for editorial photographers, in your opinion, and what has been the hardest to adapt to?

The biggest change was undoubtedly the introduction of digital technology and all the positive (and negative) baggage that came with it. On one hand there are so many outlets today which is an obvious outgrowth of the sheer quantity of cameras of all sizes and the speed of uploading images. On the other hand, this very proliferation of a camera in everyone’s pocket has made cutting through the weeds to find the flowers that much more harder. When I talk about these things with my assistants they often remind me that experience always rises to the top and nothing can replace that. Sadly, the big players in editorial are definitely demanding more usage for less money. Just today I am dealing with a top magazine that wants to use an author portrait I shot for two editions, both print and digital but only pay the same as they used to pay for print only in one edition.The sheer volume of outlets for photography is amazing though, and when hybrid ideas take root (your plan to put your blog out as a magazine) it is further proof that photography is more than alive and well. Many people think we are still at the beginning of the revolution and the tension between the reduced income and the explosion of interest/exhibition can only be viewed as positive. Personally, I have never been as aware of all the great work being done today as I am now.

 

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

 

If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?

Interestingly, ten years ago I was managing a busy studio with my work load pretty evenly balanced between location and in-studio work; I was a solid, contented generalist. Then 9-11 hit and many, many things changed. After the initial shock wore off I like to think that I moved back to basics; simplifying my approach while honing my craft, relying on my instincts more than ever and not second-guessing my solutions to image solving. In a sense I guess we all grew up that day and were reminded of the fragility of things and of the temporal nature of what we love. If anything stands out about this type of navel-gazing I probably could have focused more on my strengths as a photographer and tried not to be everything to everyone. I believe that period pushed me toward doing the long-form projects that can be so gratifying and beneficial. in a strange way this period was a silver lining in a very dark cloud.

 

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

Max Hirshfeld

 

Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?

Read all you can, study the masters, shoot pictures in your head so when you are at that moment of pushing the shutter you may have been able to pre-visualize the image ostensibly making the outcome that much stronger. Don’t give up if the pursuit is in your blood. Figure out how to keep shooting no matter the lack of work so that you find your own voice. A good exercise that can help us all is a trick my friend Doug Menuez uses sometimes: tape over the screen on the back of your camera, or (my addition) try shooting a roll of film every once in a while. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

 

(Max is based in Washington DC. See more of his work, here.)

Leave a reply

required

required

optional