© Olaf StarorypinskiOlaf Starorypinski has been and will continue to be an influence in my photography and has already taught me so much in such a short amount of time, which is why I chose to do our first Q&A session with him. His fine art nude, glamour and fashion photography is on today’s cutting edge of the industry, and so is the equipment he uses. He also manages several models careers.

Would you consider yourself a professional photographer, i.e. is this your living or your passion?

Olaf: It has always been a passion, and I think it always will be. Although I do not make 100% of my income from photography, it’s becoming a larger and larger part of what I do for a living. I also own and run a company that does architectural lighting design.

How did you get started, who / what influenced you?

Olaf: I was given a Zenith E 35mm SLR when I was about 13 or 14. The results of the 1st roll of film I ever shot were about 100 times better than what my Dad had ever shot (I’m so modest) and I really liked being so much better at something than my Dad! I also really liked shooting…

I’ve always been fascinated with light and lighting. It used to drive my grandma nuts that when she took me to the movies as a small kid, I would crane my neck back and watch the beams of light coming out of the projector! I think my photo work reflect that interest in light.

Influences have been (and still are) David Bailey, Howard Schatz, Helmut Newton, Andreas Bitesnich, Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, Sante D’Orazio, Giles Bensimon . Also, and almost as importantly, Mattise, Monet, Chagal, Rodin, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Turner. Pilobolus Dance Co, Twyla Tharp Dance Co, Martha Graham Dance Co, Alvin Ailey Dance Co.

Your style of photography includes harsh high contrast light more often than not, usually in a studio, so much so that it’s almost become your signature. What influenced this and why don’t you shoot natural light more often?

Olaf: Laughing….well, I’m glad I have developed a recognizable style, but I have to disagree with your use of the word “harsh.” True, I do use a lot of low key/high contrast set ups, but it’s very rarely “harsh”…that implies unpleasant. I hope it’s never unpleasant.

Another one of my early influences was Greek mythology, and I still enjoy reading it. My low key, sculptural treatment of the human body is often an interpretation of that genre.

I do shoot with natural light more and more these days. I find I go through phases of how I work, and the use of natural light is a part of those phases. One reason I like studio lighting is that it’s 100% controllable and I can manipulate it pretty much anyway I want.

All of your work is model / people based photography. Is this purely by choice, or because you find other subject matter such as landscapes, still life or objects boring?

Olaf: More laughter…no, I definitely do not find those other subjects “boring”!! In fact I do some landscape and still life photography.

One of the reasons that I shoot people is that I just find people VERY interesting. Also, I really enjoy collaborating with other creative people, whether it’s a model, make up artist, stylist, or another photographer. I’ve often had shoots where the end result is much better than I had hoped, but NOTHING like how I imagined…I love that!

Since you do shoot with models so often, how do you avoid getting into a rut in regards to posing them?

Olaf: Sometimes I do get into a rut, but I prefer to call it a “phase”(!!!) it’s sort of along the lines of what I mentioned earlier with regards to light. However, I am constantly influenced and inspired by all manner of art that I see, not just photography. Music is also a HUGE influence on my photography. I love trying to create an image inspired by a piece of music that I’ve heard.

It’s not hard to stay fresh if you just keep your eyes (and ears) open and really look at and study what you see or hear.

Do you feel that a models personality and ability to work with a photographer truly is important to a successful shoot, or is the photographer the one that should be blamed for poor posing and facial expressions?

Olaf: I absolutely believe that a model’s personality and talent have a HUGE influence on any image. If you listen to the world’s top photographer’s talk about who they like to shoot, you will almost always hear them using words like “attitude”, “charisma”, “magic” “charm” “seduction” before they talk about a model’s physical attributes. I’ve shot dozens of people who are physically stunning and beautiful, but look lifeless and dull in images. Some models can only do one or two “looks.” To be able to do it all is a very rare talent, and it’s why the top models get paid so much.

BUT, as the architect Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details” and the details are up to the photographer.

You’ve been shooting Digital SLR cameras since the Canon D30 was released, owning nearly every Canon DSLR body released and now shooting a Canon 1Ds mkII. Other then the obvious time advantages of shooting digitally and the reduced cost per shoot, what other advantages and / or disadvantages have you found shooting digitally?

Olaf: Good question, since it seems that everyone thinks that digital only has advantages…

The disadvantages are mostly time related. For instance, it used to be that I would shoot 200 images, send the film to the lab and have 200 pretty good images to share with my client a day or two later, end of story. Now when I shoot 200 images digitally, I spend a LOT of time editing and tweaking those images.

Color management is very important. Actually getting printed results that are identical to the colors on your screen is no simple task, it seems (please let me know if I’m wrong on this!!!)

Also storage is a problem. CD-Rs are (apparently) not archival, and hard drive space is expensive.

One of the biggest advantages of digital is being able to see results immediately. This has improved my photography immensely. You are now able to check all the crucial ingredients of an image as you shoot, and to a much better degree than you ever could with Polaroids.

What kind of time are you spending post-processing shots before they are ready to print?

Olaf: It totally depends on the image, and how much care I took taking care of the details during the shoot. Software is good, but it does have its limits.
Post-processing one image can take anywhere from 1 minute to over an hour or two.

How are you outputting your prints?

Olaf: I either give my client a CD of high-res TIFF files so they can print themselves (charging accordingly and retaining rights), or I print on an Epson 2200, or I have a commercial lab do the printing.

With all the high end electronic technology that you have at your disposal, every time I’m in your studio you have your Pentax 67 medium format film camera with you. What does it take for you to pull it out of the case and shoot it?

Olaf: Still more laughter! I use the Pentax 6×7 more often than you might think, especially for “fine art” images that are intended for gallery show etc. There is a quality to low iso black and white film that digital cannot rival.

Do you feel that film will always have a place for photographers, especially black and whites for their tonal values and slide films for their color saturation?

Olaf: Yes, definitely. See answer above! I cannot imagine that film will be going away completely anytime soon.

Over the last few years, technology has advanced, costs have come down and consumer point and shoot digital camera sales are now through the roof. This has resulted in a huge growth spurt for the photographic industry and everything around it, and sparked the interests of many people, old and young to try photography beyond your typical birthday or T-ball games snapshots. The bi-product of this is many budding “photographers” whom seem to be into everything from portraiture to wedding photography without any real training, experience or apprenticeship. Do you feel that this is hurting traditionally taught photographers?

Olaf: Hmmm…I think that the adage “you get what you pay for” is applicable here. Quality work will prevail.

Where it bothers me most is in the area of “fine art.” It seems that lots of people with a digital camera, but no training, no knowledge, no skill or talent, are taking pictures that are very average at best, and passing them off as “fine art” and galleries are buying! Now, I’ll be the first to admit that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that there is nothing as subjective as art, but I do think this trend is a bad one. Maybe that makes me elitist…oh well.

That said, I absolutely welcome an increase in interest in photography!

In regards to the previous question, is it true that you get what you pay for? Someone with more time and a traditional art / photography schooling background will tend to produce better photos then someone who is self taught?

Olaf: I didn’t read this question before I answered the last one…HONEST!!!

I don’t think that traditional or formal training is the crucial issue here. Talent and/or lots of practice are.

Where are you hoping to take your current career?

Olaf: I would like to do more fashion work, preferably for the magazines. That and a show at MOMA…

Any last words, comments or rants?

Olaf: Today’s words of wisdom & rants are…

Really look. Pay attention to everything around you. Use your eyes AND your brain…together, not just your eyes. And once you’ve looked, analyze, ponder, consider, and ruminate. Then go out and shoot…a LOT.

Will someone PLEASE explain to me why Microsoft is the dominant OS??? That stuff is utter crap.

“Models” on modeling websites who only have shitty webcam pix who say “No experience. Looking for paid work only” That ticks me off.

Buying high quality lenses is WAY more important than buying expensive cameras.

And…here is the advice my idol and mentor Howard Schatz gave me:

A photograph is only as good as its weakest element. Strive for excellence in EVERY aspect of your image.

Devour as much photography as you can. Buy every photography book and every magazine you can afford. Study imagery.

Take notes. Figure out what works for you, as well as what doesn’t, and WRITE IT DOWN!!!!

I’d like to thank Olaf for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do the interview. His work can be seen on his website: http://www.orsphoto.com

And his One Model Place porfolio is: here (not work safe)