Interview with Photographer Neal Jordan
Written 7 years ago by Lee Milthorpe
We are always striving to get better at what we do, and a great way to improve our photography is to take inspiration from fellow photographers and their work. I came across a photographer a couple of weeks ago who’s work definitely caught my attention so I wanted to find out more. Neal Jordan is the photographer, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.
For the benefit of our readers, could you introduce yourself and explain a little about your photography background?
Sure, I am from Columbus, Georgia and I got my BFA in photo at CSU. I am going to Temple University in the fall for my masters degree. I also have a minor in Art History, which is really an understatement for the obsession I have with it.
I started shooting consciously about 4 years ago, before that was just point and shoot stuff. Basically I formed my style from a hang up I was having with affording an awesome DSLR. Basically I wanted to shoot big things, like large structures. But my D40 just could not pull the resolution I needed. After scanning through like 3 years worth of photo magazines, I found this one article on a process that involves only allowing UV and IR light into the photograph. I tried that for a year or so and it was somewhat successful. Then I started wandering around on notcot.org and found a couple of photographers that were very influential (www.brandonriza.com, www.loumora.com, and other HDR sites.) After that I started trying every avenue in HDR, I finally developed a style that would allow me to give the viewer a painterly view of reality. (The human eye can see 20 ev/stops and the camera can only see like 2 at a time.) So the method allows me to give the viewer a heightened sense of reality, almost to the point of looking artificial.
You clearly take your photography seriously, having already gained several qualifications. Is that something you wanted to do simply because of your passion, or do you have much bigger plans for your photography?
Um… I would definitely agree with me taking it seriously. I am passionate, as most artist’s are, with my craft. Photography has enabled me to paint a picture for the viewer, that I simply could not do with a brush.
My paintings were some what abstracted views of landscapes, usually from an over-head perspective. I used all sorts of mediums in the paintings to create texture and value but I always wished I could make things more seemless and less forceful. Photography was my answer.
I am sure every digital photographer has gotten into the arguement with a pure’ist photographer over issues of genuineness and craft, I will leave that arguement out.
I do wish to take my photography further. As of where, I do not know. I like shooting structures and I think my eye is maturing in those objects. I have not ever liked shooting portraits too much, although I like those photos. Now, I am not saying if Nat Geo were to call me up that I would refuse, certainly not.
I am very excited about my move to Philidelphia in the next months. Phili was a huge starting point for many photographers in the 20’s. I was a little apprehensive about whether my photos would change or not. But after visiting I realized that they will only get better because of how many things there are to photograph there.
It sounds like an exciting time for you. Good luck with the move, hope it all goes well for you and I’ll look forward to seeing some of your new Phili work! Going back to your photography, what equipment do you have in your kit and is there anything you couldn’t do without?
I am a big believer in the photographer makes the photo not the camera, although I am buying a D700 soon to make things easier on myself.
I started out with Nikon D40 and the kit 18-55 lense, which I added a telephoto/macro 70-300 quantaray, a Nikon F1.4 50mm and a lensebaby 2.0. I shot with this setup for a long while until just recently I pulled my 35mm (olympus OM10 w/ sigma 17-55 mm lense & vivitar 50mm F1.8) back out and bought some velvia 50 positive slide film, which I then scan in at high resolution to get a pretty stunning “RAW” image. (Examples of this are on my site.)
My other cameras include my brownie fitted with 120 velvia film and a couple holgas and dianas, but those are more for just creativity.
As for something I couldn’t do without, I’d have to say the D40 and the ki lense. Although neither are the top of the line, they have both been such an intergral part in the last 30,000 exposures that I can say I could not do without them.
Although photographer’s never stop learning, you are obviously no longer a beginner to the game. Do you have any tips to share with those just starting out?
1. If you want to become a better photographer, keep your camera with you as much as possible. (I have a camera backpack that holds my laptop also.)
2. Read photo magazines, blogs (Strobist and Smash and Peas are two of my favourites) or books. You can get alot of useful tips that you might not otherwise think about from these sources.
3. Learn everything about your camera. Learn its ups and downs. The more you know the more you can use it for all its worth.
4. Talk to other photographers. People that are not into photography as much as you are, might have uplifting things to say but not always useful. Although I do not think that a photo degree is the right track for everyone, talking to other photo students and watching how they work has improved my skills tremendously.
5. Lenses. Camera bodies can do all sorts of things but they are all just features. The light still has to pass through the 8-15 elements of glass in your lense to hit the sensor. And if those elements are crappy then you can guess what your photo is going to look like. I would much rather have a mediocre camera body and an awsome lense then an awesome camera and a puny lense. (Think about a Ferrari with cruddy tires, all that HP but it all means nothing unless it has good tires.)
6. This one kind of tails off of #1. Travel. Don’t take those candid tourist photos and try to make something cool out of them. Keep photos like that away from your “conscious” photos. (When I say conscious, I mean “thought out”) While you are away from home take good photos and try to capitalize on the area you are in. My 9-5 is being a rock climbing director, although my camera equipment adds a couple of pounds to my pac. It also allows me to capture amazing outdoor photos.
Neal, thank you for taking the time to answer the questions in such detail, there’s some great stuff in there.
If you want to see more from Neal, check out his website at nealjordan.carbonmade.com where you can also buy prints of his work.