From his day job in B&H’s marketing department to the night-photography workshops he leads, Gabe Biderman has been a very active participant in photography culture for over ten years. Currently, Gabe both is working with NYCSalt – a non-profit that teaches photography to high school students – and preparing for an upcoming night photography workshop in Vegas.
Hear how he got started and how photography has changed since then.
Getting Started – Tell us how you got started teaching photo workshops.
Well for the last seven years I’ve worked in B&H’s marketing department – focusing on outside events like tradeshows, seminars, and our workshops. I was fortunate enough to attend many of these events and expand my own photography knowledge.
My good friend David Brommer, who runs the Event Space at B&H, is a big fan of my pinhole and night work and asked me to offer a lecture on it so I did. It was so popular that I’m still giving a variation of that lecture, now called “Night Visions” to sold out classes every two months at B&H.
There is only so much one can learn from a lecture so I started offering one-on-one “Night Walks” as well as hands on night photography workshops.
How has teaching workshops or leading SALT photo walks changed your own photography?
Photography 10-15 years ago was a totally different animal. So many photographers, myself included, were very isolated in our work. Few people were really sharing; whether it be their knowledge, experience, or locations. The world is “virtually” smaller now with blogs, flickr, facebook and similar sites showing images and information moments after capture.
On the workshops, the students ask a ton of questions, some of which I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. So we figure it out together and become enlightened together!
When I led the SALT photowalk, most of those students had never taken a long exposure and it was magic to them! Their wonder and enthusiasm inspired me to reach further. The more questions they ask, the more we delve into the process and often new bodies of work emerge. There is still a lot of uncharted water to explore when we expose for minutes, hours, and for some solarographers, months!
You’ve been a longtime Lensbaby user. How did you first hear of us? What was your initial impression?
I’ve been a devoted follower since Lensbaby 2.0! I saw your booth at one of the photo shows and immediately fell in love! I’m a big fan of using cameras/lenses that force me into a different mindset.
I’m not a documentarian, I am a visualarian! I want the image to be a vision that alters reality and makes you go, “how did he do that?” From the beginning, Lensbaby inspired me to “see in a whole new way!” I’ve owned each version, led Lensbaby photo walks, and the user experience as well as the image quality has only gotten better! I started off 2012 trying some new techniques and one of them was Lensbaby fisheye long exposures…AMAZING!
Advice for Others – How can individual photographers stand out from the increasing masses?
You have to understand lighting. That is the great separator between the pros and amateurs. Natural light will only get you so far and then you need to pull out your flash or strobe. Bad lighting will ruin a wonderfully composed image, whereas good lighting will definitely enhance or even inspire your image. Also, finding your photographic style and focusing on a specific genre will break you from the pack.
Do you think the need for workshops and other types of photo training is increasing?
Absolutely! The digital era has brought the magic of photography to the masses. It’s increased access to the camera itself and heightened the iconicity of both the image and the image makers. The public’s desire to create and capture with a camera has increased partly because we now have so many more ways to see and share photographs.
How does one separate themselves from the pack? Knowledge and experience. I am a self taught photographer and I enjoyed experimenting and not knowing the rules, but once I started taking workshops and sharing my images with “mentors” my work became more focused and refined.
How can photographers get the most out of their workshop experiences? What are some of your star students’ best practices?
Unless the class is intended to teach you how to use your camera, you should already be comfortable with operating it. Don’t bring a camera you just bought and aren’t familiar with. Often, workshops or walks will challenge you to try new techniques and if you don’t know your camera you will be fumbling around and not be able to learn at the same pace as the rest of the class.
As far as best practices- come with an open mind.
Be prepared for the class with an idea or project – often the class and teacher can help bring your idea to fruition. However, some of the best work I’ve seen is when people step outside their safety zone and create something totally new to them. Mistakes will be made, but that is how we learn and grow.
Nostalgia Time! What was your first camera?
I had experience with video cameras in college but really wasn’t into photography. However, upon graduation I took a six week road trip across the United States and fell in love with “directing” the still image. 75 rolls of film into the trip I found myself at the Grand Canyon, out of film. I went to the gift shop and all they had was black and white film. When I finally arrived in San Francisco I got all my film developed and it was the black and white shots that stood out the most. They offered me a different way of seeing the world and within 3 months I had purchased a full darkroom.
Around that time a pro photographer handed me the B&H catalog and told me to get a Pentax K1000, which I still have to this day. I still shoot film too, although not as much as I did back then!