Photography Legends Keith Carter, Douglas Kirkland, and Joyce Tenneson Talk Photography, and You Get to Listen

Imagine the amount of knowledge that flows when you get to sit down with three of the most legendary names in the photography world. In these excerpts from B&H’s OPTIC and Depth of Field Conferences, we learn from three of the most esteemed photographers alive today.

Keith Carter Compares Photography to Music

Keith Carter is a photographer whose work is included in the National Portrait Gallery and the Art Institute in Chicago, among others.  A classic musician, he explains here how he correlates photography to the 12-bar blues, in which great melodies are created using just the same 5 notes. He says in photography, you build on the same handful of elements for each image, but you tweak them according to the result you are looking for.

Keith got the photography gene from his mother, who noticed that he had a “good sense of light.” He likes to use light in all kinds of ways, many of which go against the grain of classic photography training. Keith says his photos have “sly humor”, and one look at his website will show you what that means. His images are mysterious, interesting, and somewhat dark, luring you in and creating in your mind a backstory for each one.

When asked about the simplification of photography in the iPhone age, he talks about the irony of how each new process that comes along actually stays around and is revisited throughout the ages. He talks about how the current state of digital photography and the influx of thousands and thousands of uploaded images each day can both oversimplify photography and simultaneously open up many possibilities.

Douglas Kirkland Reflects on His Beginnings

Next in this amazing lineup is Douglas Kirkland, who has photographed celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Michael Jackson. Kirkland, who is in his 80s, also got the photography bug from a parent; in this case, it was his father, who was a tailor and hobby photographer. As he progressed in his photography career, Douglas went to work for Irving Penn, whom he credits with his later success.

Kirkland talks about his upcoming work, including a trip to Normandy with a friend who was there during the invasion in World War II. He also talks about his past work, and the people who have inspired him over teh span of his long, prestigious career.

Joyce Tenneson and Her Golden Trees

A legend in the fine art photography world, Joyce Tenneson walks us through her workflow when working on projects, and books in particular. She touches on the excitement and fear that she feels upon completing each project and revealing that work to the world.

Tenneson discusses at length her thought and practice processes involved in creating her gold leaf images of trees that comprise her book “Trees and the Alchemy of Light.” The pieces were painstakingly created, and the reception she received from them was as warm and heartfelt as the prints themselves.

In her recent teachings and lectures, Tenneson discusses her current project, a study of clouds. She talks about the importance of constantly building on new ideas, while reflecting on, and learning from, the successes of the past.

Give this one a good listen. These legendary image-makers have a lot of knowledge to share.

Who do you consider legendary in the photography world? Share your favorites in the comments.

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