Every so often I stumble upon a photographer whose work transports me to a different headspace. It doesn't happen very often, so when it does, I delve in. The photography of Eric Rose does just that.
Rose is a self-taught, Portland-based photographer. I first came across him several years ago on Flickr and have been following his work ever since. His use of shadow, slow shutter and lens blur creates a lyrical, Lynchian quality in his images. Many of his portraits remind me of Nigel Grierson's 4AD album art from the 80's. The thing that struck me whenever I came across a new image on Rose's Tumblr or Flickr was just how formally beautiful they were. I sent him an email several months ago just to tell him how his images reminded me of the masters like Steichen and Stieglitz. To later find out that Rose is self-taught is even more impressive to me.
I was able to chat with him a bit and ask him some questions that I had been wondering for a while.
Self-taught, though I have paid for a couple photo classes back in the day which I skipped just to gain access to the darkroom. Brett Walker took me under his wing for a short while in London. We mostly just wandered away from each other chasing down questionable characters on the streets for a good shot. I learn a lot through experimentation, trial-and-error and diving into photo books.
Do you have a studio?
I go through phases with studios, currently I do not, I've had a few but I find four walls very limiting after a short time, my work within each studio started looking the same quickly. 99% of my photography is natural light so I prefer winging it on location.
Finding young up-and-comers and start-ups is my favorite thing. People that are making interesting things, clients that haven't necessarily made it big yet. The absence of bureaucracy allows for more creative freedom. It's too often I'm hired because my work caught the attention of a potential client but they want something other than what I do. "We like you but can you do this over here?." I say, hire that guy instead (politely). Finding like-minded clients that are open to the idea that since they enjoy my work, they know they will enjoy my interpretation of what they do or make. It's a much better scenario. I have side projects, restoring old motorcycles for one, that allows me more freedom to say no sometimes, then I don't get in a spot where I begin to hate the craft I want to love.
All of my clients have been either from word-of-mouth or from having come across my work online. Tumblr for instance: it's like having 50,000 photo agents sharing your work with no commission. Even though 48,000 of my followers might be 14 year old's, a reblog can always make it to a decision-maker's computer screen.
Have you ever assisted?
As far as assisting, I've never done it. I'd probably be further ahead if I had, I just never found anyone I really respected and wanted to learn from that wasn't untouchable. I probably would've given Irving Penn pedicures if I could get in the door but you just can't get to those guys. I think having a coffee with a photographer and a good conversation can be as rewarding as assisting. Many photographers I admire shoot street and you just can't learn that, you need to do it.
Do you ever shoot for fun?
I shoot for fun nearly every day, I always have a camera, I have a few shots I missed because I didn't have a camera and they haunt me.
Who is your dream client?
In a way I have my dream client, I've always been stunned by a good book cover, when I first started I always thought it would be cool to stroll through a bookstore and see one of my images on a cover. One of my current clients works for a publishing house and just cherry picks from work I've already shot. To me it's just brilliant, you don't have to shoot to please, they see it, they're pleased, they send you a check, it's in the bookstore a couple months later, I love it.