by Jeffrey H. Mantler, PPA Certified, M.Photog,Cr.
Everything about creating art is personal to the artist. This photo challenge is personal and designed for you to strengthen your core as an artist so you can better yourself and strengthen your images.
Growing up in the photography industry, I had many unique experiences. I was just a child when my father, the owner of a successful portrait/wedding studio, was approached to photograph members of the New York Nets. After creating these portraits, he was commissioned to photograph all of the team’s home games. I was by his side shooting at every game, which gave me instant celebrity status among my peers.
During my formative years, I was fortunate to attend many PPA affiliate workshops and seminars; my father willingly sacrificed me to his peers to act an assistant. This was probably one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me. Imagine a ringside seat to assist industry legends like Monte Zucker, Joseph Zeltsman, Don Blair, Al Gilbert, Rocky Gunn, William McIntosch and many others. I was also a photo convention rat and soaked up knowledge at local LIPPA (Long Island Professional Photographers’ Association) and PPSNY (the New York State PPA Affiliate).
I had many local mentors including Alvin Friedman, Anthony Marchisotto, Roland Laramie and Harold Bovee. Mr. Bovee and Mr. Laramie were great–they were both successful PPA Judges and took the time when I was a kid to walk up and down the print racks explaining the differences between similar images and why one earned a “blue” ribbon and the other a “white” ribbon. All of these experiences led me to photographing my first wedding at the ripe age of 14 (dad hired an assistant for me who would double as my driver)!
Keep in mind many of these experiences were before I was 12 (when a child’s mind is somewhat of a sponge), shaping me into the artist I am today. However, the greatest lesson I ever learned was when I was six; my father gifted me his 1938 Rolleiflex and told me I was about to learn how to create photographs the same way he learned from his father.
Dad handed me my first roll of film and proceeded to teach me how to load my ‘new’ Rollei. He then handed me an ambient light meter, explained how it worked, and sent me on my way, telling me that I was only allowed to make one exposure per day and that I should make it count – a daunting task for a 6 year old! I later learned dad learned using a 1939 Speed Graphic, which requires sheet film. He was able to develop his exposed frames daily. I, on the other hand, had to wait 12 days before I could see the results of day one, which I though quite unfair.
Never mind the gory details of my first experiences, the lesson I learned was invaluable as I grew photographically. It was three years later before an impatient 9 year old understood the exercises I had been assigned. I felt like Daniel in the Karate Kid only it wasn’t “wax on, wax off”. Dad had given me a task that, in turn, made me more patient, giving me an uncanny sense of timing. He used to tell me “imagine when your eye is to the viewfinder it was the easel beneath our enlarger and to put on film what you wanted to see on paper;” in other words get it right the first time!
In today’s world, I see many young photographers overshooting assignments. It’s not about how many images you create, but the quality of the images you create. I can still shoot sporting events without using a motor drive or in a ‘continuous’ mode setting. Get it right the first time and have quality images to choose from; there is no need to overshoot so you can choose the best exposure from a movie strip. Stop relying on Photoshop to fix your image later.
The Art & Science of Photography
The essence of photography is a combination of art and science. Scientifically, traditional film photography is based on Algebra, Optical Physics and Chemistry; today the scientific elements are similar as far as mathematics and physics. Digital Science has replaced Chemistry which lead us our of the darkroom and into Lightroom!
The Photo Challenge
So, my photo challenge to you is to step out of your comfort zone; Challenge yourself to set your camera to Manual. Grab a light meter and go out and create one image per day the old fashion way; not for 3 years, but for two weeks and make each exposure count.