Ari was another early joiner on FStop. He comes from NYC with tons of experience and a killer aesthetic.
Say hello to Ari W:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
Originally from Queens, I now live in New York’s Hudson Valley, a beautiful part of the state. I’ve been all over the East Coast, and travel to New England frequently, all the way up to Downeast Maine, another picturesque destination.
What’s your favorite place in the world and why?
Maine’s Schoodic Peninsula keeps drawing me back, it’s quite possibly my favorite place at the moment. The confluence of the ocean, evergreen woods and granite on the Schoodic coast is uniquely beautiful.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
I’ve been a graphic artist for over 30 years. My design and illustration work has been published, and I freelance when I can. A camera was not in my toolbox until a few years ago when I became interested in using photography for my work. I did my first studio shoot in 2010 with a group of local photographers, and that got me hooked on photographing people. Though I photograph part-time, I’m getting more work and clients are using my photos, which is immensely rewarding.
What types of photography do you do? What’s your favorite and why?
I shoot professional portraits and events for work, landscapes and nature on my own time. In my studio I shoot families, portraits, fashion, glamour, and anything else that my collaborators want to try. I also enjoy themed group shoots such as steampunk or retro pinup. My favorite photo sessions are on location, where I’m challenged to be creative with composition, lighting, and the logistics of the shoot.
Can you share your favorite three photos and tell us about them?
So many favorites! It’s hard to choose three, but here goes:
This ‘Lined figure’ is Kerri Taylor, an amazing professional I’m fortunate to have worked with on a couple of occasions. The concept and body paint by Kelly Torres were my idea, we shot this in my studio back in 2011. I like the mystery and abstraction of the figure; It exhibits strong emotion even though the facial expression is hidden, through the dramatic pose and lighting.
‘Sunrise Joy’ features Beckahh Rose, a local semi-pro model. We both rose before the sun and hiked to a local spot we like here in the Hudson Valley. I love that this image is on location, authentically cheerful and spontaneous. The entire shoot took about 45 minutes.
Above, ‘Schoodic Morning.’ As mentioned I do love landscape photography and this is another sunrise shot, this time in Maine at my favorite place in the world, Schoodic Point. I didn’t have to wander far from my truck to set up my tripod and capture this image in early March 2013, when nobody else was visiting this otherwise popular location. This photo illustrates what I wrote earlier, how the woods, ocean and rocky shore come together in an iconic way.
What kind of gear do you have?
I primarily shoot with Canon DSLRs, on a tripod whenever possible. I prefer full-frame but have used APS-C for years. For portraits I currently favor prime lenses, 50, 85 and 100mm. For lighting I use both flash guns and studio strobes with remote triggers. I also have a Micro-Four-Thirds kit with a Panasonic body and a few lenses for traveling light.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment and why?
My current favorite is the LumoPro LP180 manual flash, my go-to light for location work. It’s reliable, well built, and has great features including a battery indicator and ready beep. It’s a tremendous value and easy to use.
What was your most memorable photography-related experience and why?
I remember finishing a shoot early in my career with a seasoned model. She sat down with me to review the photos on my computer and I pointed to a few of my favorites. No, she said. This one doesn’t work for this reason and here’s what I don’t like about this other one, etc. That’s when it dawned on me that the best photos were the ones that the customer likes, not necessarily the ones the photographer selects. I have since made it my mission to work collaboratively, so that if possible, everyone involved in the shoot is proud of the results. When that doesn’t happen, I consider it a failure and try to learn from what went wrong.
What are the top three tips you have for aspiring photographers?
- Shoot everything. Trying different techniques and subjects teaches you to solve lighting and composition problems and familiarizes you with your gear, as well as with your visual preferences.
- Get feedback. It can be tough to take criticism, but it’s the most effective way to learn. Try the suggestions you’re given, and decide for yourself if you like the results better. Feedback also helps you pay more attention to detail.
- Try new gear, just don’t get too attached. While gear acquisition syndrome is to be avoided, it’s OK to try different lenses, lights and even camera bodies to learn what works best. Eventually you have to settle for the gear that suits you and get back to shooting. Then sell what you’re not using.
What’s been the most challenging part of photography, and how do you rise above those challenges?
Overcoming the perception that anyone can be a photographer, since nearly all of us now carry around fairly decent cameras in our phones and tablets. I overcome that by shooting deliberately, composing carefully, and controlling my lighting where possible. Planning, preparation and deliberation can produce unique, memorable photos that stand out from the millions of casual shots produced every day.
What qualities do you think a good photographer must possess?
Patience and perseverance are foremost. You have to be patient with subjects you photograph whether they are people or inanimate objects, and give them – and yourself – a chance to realize your vision. It can take time and many re-shoots, so persevere. It will pay off in the end.
How about good models?
The very best models I’ve worked with connect with the viewer and the photographer by giving into the process and living in the moment. It helps if they love to be photographed and can perform, even just a bit. You know when that connection happens and can see it in the expressions you capture on the very best shots.
Do you have a favorite Makeup Artist? Hair Stylist? Wardrobe stylist? Feel free to give them kudos here.
I’m proud to have worked with Kelly Torres (Instagram: @bodyartist) here in the Hudson Valley. She is a body painter, tattoo artist, makeup expert and all around creative dynamo who awes me with her work and energy.
Who are your role models in the industry and why?
Photographers who work hard at their craft and are happy to share everything they know inspire me. People like David DuChemin, Neil van Niekerk, Peter Hurley, Bryan Peterson, Zack Arias, Eddie Soloway. They make amazing images, share their work, write books, teach workshops, post videos, and say meaningful things. They are my role models because they care and give back.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully retired from my day job and spending all of my time on photography and art, exhibiting and selling my work. Might take a bit longer than 5 years, we’ll see!
Name one song you would want to hear during a shoot.
“Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles
The answers to this question are being compiled into an FStop Spotify playlist – feel free to use it during your shoots!
Ari, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to share your story and experiences.
If anyone wants to reach out to Ari, here is some contact information:
Model Mayhem: 1952054 (Members only)