By/Por Polo Munoz
When I speak to photography enthusiasts, the conversation usually sways to the various kinds of cameras or lenses. When an enthusiast is on an exciting new journey, one of the telltale signs is that the focus is on the tools, rather than on the craft. When I speak to a professional photographer, the focus is different. It is about the creation, the memories, and the light. They are not just trying to see what the camera can do; they create moments that capture the heart.
Jose Angel Castro is a professional photographer who has a simple answer– look at the work. In his website he does not speak about his NYU degree or about his work as an educator, he simply says, “Photography allows me to freeze stories and show you just how beautiful you are. Welcome to my party!”
In this interview Jose shares with us both the technical and the creative.
Jose, with the advent of technology it seems that everyone thinks, photography is simple. Why photography?
A. Tech HAS made photography more accessible to more people, and that accessibility has given the false impression that anyone can take a great photograph. But, here’s the difference. No matter how expensive the gear, most folks these days stumble onto a good frame once in a few hundred shots. Pros MAKE great photos deliberately-with specific purpose and skill. That skill is unmistakeable.
I see my world in shutter clicks. I always have. Even long before I ever picked up a camera whether as a hobby or a profession. My life is dedicated to recognizing and preserving beauty.
Q. As a professional photographer, what do you look for in a photographer?
A. I think it’s important to have a good rapport with a photgrapher who will be capturing important parts of my life, and I encourage potential clients to do the same. Depending on the occasion, photographs can often be the most important window to memory. I want someone who genuinely accepts and respects that responsibility.
It’s easy to find someone who shoots well technically. Much harder to find someone who cares.
Q. Do you have a preparation ritual?
A. I have the usual prep such as making and checking gear lists and researching themes and tear sheets, but I also have a little thing about finding and “studying” the beauty of my subjects-male, female, flower, tree or stone. I always want to feel in rhythm with whatever or whomever I am shooting.
Q. Digital photography has opened up this medium to many artists, has this diluted the value of the professional photographer?
A. Not that long ago, photography was a much more costly pursuit. Gear and processing were so expensive that most people wouldn’t entertain the prospoect of buying professional equipment. Now, with high-end gear being so cost effective, almost everybody is buying semi-pro or pro gear whether they know how to use it or not.
That caused people to believe that anyone can shoot like a pro thereby diluting the pro pool. However, the pendulum is swinging the other way now that so many people have lost precious memories to bad photography by their Uncle Bert. Uncle Bert may have bought the latest turbo charged Nikon D whatever, but he might not have know anything about understanding light and composition.
This trend is coming to an end and people are leaving the good stuff to the pros again.
Q. What images do you like to create?
A. I like to create images that communicate the truth of whatever I’m shooting. I like to create images that reflect the truth.
Q. What images do you like to capture?
A. Since I see life as photographs, I like to shoot almost anything, but I have a gift for shooting people based on what I consider a very special skill. I have the ability to get people to relax and recognize their own unique beauty. It’s difficult to explain. Perhaps it’s a social skill applied to my work. Whatever it is, I don’t question it. It allows me to make successful shots. If I can make people feel beautiful, I can make beautiful pictures.
Q. As a photographer, what is it that drives you?
A. What drives me as a photographer, and more importantly as a human being, is a burning desire to cultivte and capture beauty.
Q. As you look at your photographs, is there a theme to your work?
A. I would have to say the main themes in my work are simplicity and intimacy. Simplicity, because I prefer to take the picture without a bunch of tricks or things to hide behind, and intimacy, because I like to connect with the subject and make the audience feel like they are transported to that specific moment.
Q. Are there events that you can identify as changing your art?
A. My art shifted significantly when, while transitioning from a previous carreer, my sister suggested I take up photography professionally. She had seen something in the snaps I had taken over the years that I hadn’t really seen myself.
Everything about photography changed for me from that moment. It was like my eyes suddenly matured. That was cool. Thanks, Sis.
Q. As a teacher, are there certain skills you recognize on a student?
A. What I recognize in my students and try hard to nurture is each person’s unique way of seeing the world around them. As a teacher, I’m far more interested in teaching people HOW to see, then how to photograph what they see in order to tell a story.
Q. What is the one advice you would give a new photographer?
A. The advice I would give a photog starting up is the best piece of advice I ever got. If you wanna be a good shooter, you have to go out and shoot…a lot. Experimentation, accidents and failures are valuable tools.
Then, I’d say”, LEARN HOW TO RUN A BUSINESS!” whether as an Fine arts shooter or a wedding photographer, learning the business side of things is essential-even if you plan to have someone else do the biz legwork.
Q. What do you feel are three things people need to know in order to successful in this field?
A. In my estimation, the three most important things are as follows:
- Shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot some more until you find your way of seeing and your photographic voice, which includes the technical skills to communicate that to your audience.
- Know you business. Nobody I know becomes a professional photographer to NOT make money at it.
- Develop great people skills. You’ll need them to interact with clients and models and creative directors and publicists. If you plan to have your own business, this part is key.
To view his work, visit www.shooterfoto.com