Photographer of the Month Interview: Adam Attoun

Featured Photographer, May 2010:   Adam Attoun

This month, our featured guest is the fascinating photographer, Adam Attoun. Adam specializes in portrait photography, but doesn't limit himself to that one field. As a matter of fact, this photographer is also a physician, a radiologist. "As a photographer, I strive for perfection in both the technical and aesthetic values of my work. As a radiologist, each film continues to present a challenge and tests many areas of medicine...."

We want to say thank you to Adam for taking the time to answer our questions, and share some of his insights with us! Please visit his site links to see more of his incredible work, and to let him know you enjoyed this interview.

:: How did you get started in photography? ::

My Mom gave me an Olympus OM-1 at the age of twelve and I've been hooked ever since.

:: You do a lot of portrait work as well as landscape photography. Which do you find the most challenging, and why? ::

Landscapes are by far more challenging. With portraiture, I have so much more control over the finished product. With landscapes, however, you can make extensive efforts to get when and where you need to be, only to thwarted by suboptimal shooting conditions.

:: How did you develop your style in regards to your portrait work? How does it cross over into what you do with landscape work? ::

Each portrait session is a unique process, depending largely on the character of my subject(s), my mood, and even the music I might be listening to at the time. Therefore, my style changes on a regular basis to the point that I don't classify myself with any given style. That said, certain generalities can be made about what I often incorporate into portraits. For example, I typically prefer soft edge lighting and coordinated colors, and have a special affinity toward classic themes when possible.

The greatest similarity between portraits and landscapes lies in the challenge of lighting. Otherwise, the two differ significantly. Landscapes tend to rely more heavily on perspectives, timing, and luck, and the physical efforts exerted in obtaining them.

:: I know it's probably hard to pick, but which do you prefer to shoot...landscape or portrait? ::

That's difficult. If photography were like sex, then in photographic terms I'd be considered bisexual because I never know if I'm going to wake up one morning craving portraits or craving landscapes. And just like sex, the urge builds up over time if I go without either for too long. So, I tend to oscillate equally between the two.

That said, as mentioned above, portraiture is a lot easier and requires much less physical demand. It's also more dynamic and allows me to interact more with people. On the other hand, shooting landscapes is quite spiritual for me and can be more rewarding given the efforts inherent in producing them. Shooting landscapes can also get quite lonely at times, which can be nice since solitude is relaxing every now and then. So, ultimately, it's really impossible for me to choose one over the other.

:: What was the worst or scariest day you've had photographing? It can be related to portrait work, too. We just want the best story of a miserable day in the field. ::

Too many to list, quite honestly. I've traveled hours, only to reach my shooting destination realizing that my memory cards were sitting comfortably on my desk back home. Once I actually forgot the entire camera! I can be such an idiot at times. The worst was probably when a couple had arranged for me to fly out of town to shoot their wedding, purchasing the plane ticket, reserving transportation, etc. I was excited and well prepared. So, a couple weeks later I get a call from the bride asking me where the hell I was. What? I didn't understand, as the wedding was the following week. Actually, it turned out that the wedding was the week prior, and I had completely missed it. Oops! Suffice it to say, that was when I decided weddings were no longer for me.

:: Let's say you get a choice to work for either National Geographic or Vogue magazine...the first job is primarily outdoors, landscape-related work, while the other is studio work. Both jobs provide you all the gear you could ever want in order to be successful. Which job do you choose and why? ::

Another difficult question, as both have their advantages and disadvantages. In reality, I have a very successful day job that would be hard to peel me away from. In that regard, shooting for Vogue would be more practical since I own my own studio and can work on my own time, uploading images through e-mail, etc. But given the proverbial "if I won the lottery," I'd love a successful career with National Geographic since I love to travel but suffer from lack of time in order to do so.

:: What piece of advice would you give to someone just getting into portrait photography? ::

For me, lighting is crucial to portraiture; and virtually all my knowledge regarding lighting has been acquired through trial and error. Digital makes that a lot faster and easier. So, I would encourage newcomers to practice as much as possible various lighting techniques, starting with one light, and building up to two lights, three lights, etc. Also practice with a host of modifiers, such as umbrellas, softboxes, and beauty dishes. Each has its place and it's important to know when one works better in any given situation.

Adam Attoun

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