Interview with Jesse Freidin, Photographer
Interview with Jesse Freidin, Photographer
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Freidin, a photographer residing in San Francisco, California. A selection of Jesse Freidin’s work is displayed below. Please visit Jesse Freidin’s website to view more of his work. Jesse also does commissions upon request.
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
JESSE FREIDIN: I’ve been fascinated with photography for as long as I can remember. I had a pretend Fisher-Price toy camera when I was very little, and I’m sure that was my photography ‘root.’ In college all my friends were artists, but I never considered myself one of them because the photography I did was simply for myself, and for fun. It took a while to let myself realize how deeply connected I was to photography, and allow myself to pursue it as a profession. I think it’s so important to let ourselves do what we love most, and work to turn it into a career.
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study photography formally?
JESSE FREIDIN: I didn’t have the foresight to go to art school, but took a few classes at City College in San Francisco to learn about lighting and darkroom printing when I moved to California. As much as I think I missed out on the intensity and wealth of knowledge that comes from an art school education, I don’t think it’s necessary in order to become an artist.
KATHERINE CARVER: How do you describe your style?
JESSE FREIDIN: I ask a lot from my subjects — presence, honesty, emotion and a true willingness to participate. And I do my best to offer that back. My style of photography is very explorational and voyeuristic, forcing my subjects and viewers to experience a moment of connection that I myself am simultaneously experiencing.
KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the time when you first realized that photographing was absolutely something that you had to do?
JESSE FREIDIN: What a great question. Yes — I had been encouraged to take a photography class at City College just experience what it would feel like to be in a learning environment with other photographers. The first day in the darkroom we began learning about contrast and in the process of making my first class print I knew I would do this for the rest of my life. I was not there to get a degree, I was there to become immersed and dedicate myself to the work. It was a magical moment.
KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin photographing dogs/animals?
JESSE FREIDIN: When I moved to California many years ago, I had never taken a portrait of an animal, and was a little afraid of dogs. I got a job at a dog daycare just to pay the bills. The first day at work, in the middle of a huge group of barking dogs, this enormous pit bull named Lennox came up to me and we made an instant emotional connection. Suddenly, all the dogs became quiet, and I felt at ease. From there, I became obsessed with exploring the human/animal bond, and have spent every day around dogs since.
KATHERINE CARVER: What gear do you use while photographing?
JESSE FREIDIN: I use a Hasselblad 500C and a Contax 645 with 120 black and white film.
KATHERINE CARVER: Why do you choose to photograph using film, an analog medium?
JESSE FREIDIN: Film has always been an integral part of photography for me. It’s what I learned on, and it is how I create my images. Photography is a tactile medium — choosing aperture and shutter speed and film speed and chemistry and development time etc. — those are all things that are intrinsic to the process. Analog photography simply lets me create the best images I can create, and allows me to be fully in control of the creative process.
KATHERINE CARVER: How have your own dog(s) influenced your photography?
JESSE FREIDIN: I have a Boston Terrier named Pancake. He is a very good dog. He loves being photographed, and is of course my favorite dog model. Raising him as a puppy, and spending every second with him for the past seven years, our relationship has certainly influenced my work as it has given me the opportunity to grow alongside an animal, and really live within that bond. Just like you can’t photograph a human without allowing yourself to be present in that portrait, I believe you can’t photograph an animal without truly knowing what that bond feels like.
KATHERINE CARVER: Where do you show/exhibit your work?
JESSE FREIDIN: I exhibit my work at galleries around the country, and sometimes at special boutiques when invited. My exhibit ‘American Sporting Heritage’ is just ending a three-month run at the amazing National Sporting Library and Museum in Virginia, and I’ll be putting up a handful of new exhibits around San Francisco and Los Angeles in the beginning of the year.
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
JESSE FREIDIN: Being creative means speaking in an authentic voice, and turning your intuitions into physical material — three- dimensional or otherwise. I think being creative also means being an individual, and making something that no one has ever made before.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?
JESSE FREIDIN: For me, running a business is the hardest part of being a photographer. Though I actually really love being a small business owner and partaking in all the things that comes with that, it exercises a very different part of my brain. The photography part comes naturally. But I’ve found a way to be creative in my business practices as well, and I love helping my clients invest in work that inspires and moves them.
KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?
JESSE FREIDIN: I wake up everyday and get to do what I love most – that is inspiring. And I get to share that with my wonderful clients, and help them articulate emotions that they cannot articulate themselves. That is incredibly motivating.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most rewarding and satisfying part about creating and being a photographer – especially photographing animals?
JESSE FREIDIN: Artists are all fairly weird people. We see things differently and have a visceral need to make a statement about it. I believe that our society has such an intense symbiotic relationship with dogs, yet we fail to speak seriously about it. It is very satisfying to be creating a new kind of discourse about the dog/human bond that is based on realness and emotion.
KATHERINE CARVER: What kind of patterns, rituals, and routines do you have while making photographs?
JESSE FREIDIN: I think all photographers are simply constantly taking photographs with their minds. It’s not something you can turn on and off — it’s just always happening. When I photograph for myself, I typically work very slowly and spend a lot of time planning my composition and waiting for the perfect light to hit. When I work with clients, I do that too but my main concern is simply being in the moment with them, leading them into a genuine interaction with their animal companions, and then letting the interaction run it’s course. I am there to view it all and photograph through those moments. I talk with my clients throughout our whole session, because we need to be close in order to create emotional images. I also usually leave behind my light meter, a film back, or some film wrappers and then have to drive back and retrieve everything. My mind tends to get a bit hyper focused when I’m working.
KATHERINE CARVER: Looking back on your accomplishments, to date, what are you the most proud of?
JESSE FREIDIN: I’d say the thing I’m most proud of is quitting my day job.
KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire your work?
JESSE FREIDIN: I always turn to Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Duane Michals, Elliot Erwitt, Rineke Dijkestra. I’m also really obsessed with the painting collection at the Getty Collection in Los Angeles right now.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?
JESSE FREIDIN: The end of the year has begun, so my focus right now is producing work for my current clients and wrapping up as many jobs as I can before the holidays. I’m also putting finishing touches on my new Los Angeles dog photography studio, which has been a huge project for the past few months. And, my current series ‘DOG FOOD’ is shooting in LA right now, so that’s a large project that will continue through 2014.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
JESSE FREIDIN: Be real, do the exact opposite of what the other guys are doing, and don’t use ‘actions’ on Photoshop or cut corners! Start from the very beginning and learn the basics — you’ll be happy you did.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view and commission your work?
JESSE FREIDIN: People can visit my website: www.jessefreidin.com to view galleries, watch some videos, and read my (entertaining?) blog. For private commissions, simply use our ‘Contact’ page to schedule a free Creative Consultation in Los Angeles or San Francisco and get the process started.
All images are courtesy of Jesse Freidin.
You can read additional interviews here.
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