10 minutes with David Arky

Interviews with Photographers January 8, 2014 7:38 am
David Arky

David Arky

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

I was riding in a bus on my way to a college interview at an engineering school, when I realized that’s not what I wanted to do.
I wanted to make photographs, not be in a lab all day working with numbers and equations.
Now I realize that taking still life photographs is a lot like being in a lab.
You have to keep chipping away at the idea until you solve the problem. It’s very much about science and problem solving with a bit of lighting and composition thrown in.

Who were the first photographers that inspired you?

Irving Penn was the first photographer’s work that made me push myself to do more and to experiment. For me, it goes without saying that he was a master of portraiture as well as still life and made modest subjects look heroic.
Harold Edgerton’s pictures still amaze me. I recent saw an image that he made of a gun shooting blank cartridges, that took my breath away. The texture and energy of the moment of that image still lingers in my brain, and can think of very few pictures that are quite as memorable.

I love the still life paintings of Giorgio Morandi, too!

Did you always know that you wanted to go into still-life photography? I always think that still life photographers must just naturally be perfectionists – and never clumsy..

At the beginning of my career, I had a partnership with another photographer, John Barrett, who I met at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. We shot a variety assignments together for Esquire and the National Lampoon, among others. I was thrilled to be shooting any job at that point and accepted a number of assignments that involved photographing people in the studio and on location. At the end of each shoot, I was usually happy with the results, but got more satisfaction from my still life projects. One day I realized that the kinds of shots we did, like dogs in armor and tattooed models were often just big still lives to me….
I think that most of us who are drawn to shooting still life are perfectionists, and love to tweak the lighting and composition for as long as we can. One thing that you learn quickly is when to move on to the next shot, before you overwork an image.
Honestly, I do have my clumsy moments, like kicking a tripod after painstakingly setting up a shot. Once I got a camera stand that problem was taken care of.

When did you start shooting your X-Rays? Do you remember the first X-Ray shot you took?

A client called me in 1994 to see if I could create some x-rays for an ad campaign that he was doing for the Strathmore Paper Company.

We had worked together on a few still-life projects when he asked me if I could shoot some x-rays of a briefcase. I had no idea if it was possible, but told him that I would get back in touch in two weeks. We did some research and found a nearby x-ray lab where we made some test images and then got the okay to move ahead.
It was a frightening experience at first, both from the thought of being around x-ray equipment and the inherent risks, but also of the fear of how it was all going to turn out. In the original shoot we x-rayed about 30 objects that were combined into about three final ads. Needless to say it worked out well and other agencies called me to do more x-ray images shortly afterwards.

The fear disappeared after my third time at the x-ray, and felt completely comfortable walking into an x-ray lab and shooting just about anything. We recently x-rayed some brassieres for Self Magazine as well as five objects for Pentagram Design.


If you could go back ten years and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Keep shooting what you love and don’t look back.

Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?

Don’t get distracted by your latest job and lose site of what you love to shoot.
Be patient but most importantly be persistent.

(David is based in New York, see more of his work here)

Leave a reply