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ePHOTOzine Chats To Norbert Weiss - Norbert Weiss is a French born photographer that now lives in Canada. We find out more about him.
How did you get into photography?
I actually do not think I've ever been into photography. I graduated with a degree in biology and have never studied photography. I do not consider myself as a photographer but just someone using a camera to freeze emotions.
Photography has always been a hobby. As a child I remember playing with a point-and-shoot plasticky camera or a Polaroid instant camera. Later I used the Minolta SLR camera that belonged to my dad with a 50mm prime lens. It was great! By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, I do not remember exactly, I joined the 'photo club' of my school. It was more a good reason to get together after classes rather than to learn photography, but I remember being one of the 'official photographers' of the cross-country race organized by my school, and processing the films in the darkroom. It was a lot of fun and it is how photography should be. I believe that great photographs, like other kinds of creativities, come from pleasure and passion, not from pressure.
What draws you to black and white photography?
For me colour is like a gift-wrap, it is disturbing. It looks nice from outside but you are not so sure about what is inside. It manipulates your emotions. But do not get me wrong, there are great colour photographers. It is just that I do not know how to properly use the colour without swinging to the 'gift-wrap' side of colour photography. Black and white helps me to focus and concentrate on the main elements of the scene. I like to keep my photographs as simple as possible. In photography, more is less.
What inspires you photographically?
This is an interesting question and I actually never thought about it. I am used to saying that if you can put words on what you like it is probably because you do not like it enough. I am inspired by the emotions that a scene brings to me. It is both what I see and what I feel. And it is quite easy to put in the frame what you see, but way more difficult to include what you feel. One of the main challenges in photography is to bring into your photographs what you do not see, and there is no word to describe this.
Do you have a favourite location for your photography?
I take photographs of the things that inspire me, from landscapes to the urban environment and the people who live there. I do not have a favourite location, but I usually like the contrast. I do not like what is 'warm', it has to be either 'cold' or 'hot'. I like Russia for its extremes, both in terms of climate and of the living style. More recently I have been inspired by the north of Germany and the Baltic sea where time seems to have been suspended.
What equipment do you use?
I currently use a Nikon D7000 DSLR with a unique 35mm prime lens. I like to use prime lenses, you always have the same frame, and it makes things simple. And my legs are the best zoom I can have. I also like to carry a point-and-shoot camera. You can have it ready to shoot all the time, the image quality is now great, and it is simple to use. It lets you concentrate on the main aspects of photography, the emotion. As Chase Jarvis said, "the best camera is the one you have with you". The camera has nothing to do with the emotional aspect of the photograph. You can have a camera delivering very sharp images, high ISO capability, high dynamic range, and other superlative features, but it does not make an emotional photograph. I have seen very emotive images taken with a homemade pinhole camera.
What do you look for in a shot?
I do not look for anything. I just see and wait for emotions. I can be a very busy place crowded with people or I can like something as simple as few phantom trees in North Germany or a railway on a Siberian winter morning. I need to feel something before I press the shutter of my camera.
If you had to give just three tips to someone wanting to improve their photography, what would they be?
1. Leave your camera at home for a couple of days, go outside be aware of what is going on around you and see what could have make a good photograph without the “pressure” of shooting.
2. Think as a painter. Imaging that you have only once chance to take an image, you do not want to miss it, right? Then think about why you want to take a photograph of this scene and how to get your emotions in the image.
3. Forget the first two tips, forget that you are a photographer, forget about your photography gear, and just listen to yourself.
For more information on Norbert and his work, take a look at his website: Norbert Weiss Photography.