Being interviewed by Ed Wedman (Exhibitions Without Walls)

“One of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years is that it is too easy to stifle your creativity if you obsess over the technology. Being technologically proficient and knowing how to use your equipment inside and out is very important. But to me, creating my art is the most important reason I started photographing.” - Jason DiMichele

EWW: Jason, How would you describe the difference between photojournalism and fine art photography?  Is there a difference?

Jason: I believe that photojournalism should be true to what the camera and the photographer saw. I am not inferring that journalistic photography doesn’t require a creative eye – far from it. Fine art photography on the other hand has more of a creative freedom to allow the photographer to exaggerate or distort reality to create a specific mood for the image. Although I’m more of an “out of the camera” photographer, I can appreciate that many fine art photographers enhance/modify their images to various degrees. I don’t believe that these types of changes should be made to images made for journalistic purposes.

EWW: You mention on your website that as you grew up you began to notice all the subtleties that surrounded you.  Can you elaborate on this statement a little?

Jason: When I began adventuring into the outdoors, I would always see the obvious things such as the trees, streams and animals. As I began to venture out more frequently and further, I started to pay more attention to other aspects of this beauty such as the natural rhythms of flowing water, the different stages of leaves changing colours and wild flower lifecycles, the behavioral patterns of animals and insects, etc. This is the stage at which I really began to appreciate how complicated, intricate and at times cruel nature can be, yet subtle and beautiful all at the same time.

EWW: You use both black & White and color.  How do you decide when to use color or black & White?

Jason: Throughout my 35mm, medium and large format film days I have primarily been a colour photographer. Now with digital, most of my art is still colour. Appropriately used, colour has an incredible emotional impact to it, ranging from monotone and subtle, to highly saturated and loud images. I have always admired seeing really great black and white images from exceptional photographers and every once in a while try my eye at seeing black and white. The images that I typically process as black and white are those that colour does not create or enhance the emotional value or impact of the image.

EWW:  Your overall portfolio concentrates on nature and the environment, but are there any aspects of nature and the environment that inspire you more than others?

Jason: I would say that all aspects inspire me equal amounts. However, I would say that I place priority on my scenic style of photography as opposed to wildlife considering the best time to photograph each of these subjects tends to conflict. Where and what I photograph typically changes with the location and season. The Spring ice melt generally has me attracted to fast flowing water. Summer is the time for me to focus primarily on wildflowers, insects and macro in general. Considering I am really attracted to colour, Autumn is a time initially for fall colour and then the monotone hues of browns as winter approaches. Winter in Canada typically has me photographing snow covered landscapes and frozen water. That’s primarily the cycle of my photography. I will photograph any of these elements throughout the year as the opportunity presents itself. I am also always on the lookout for abandoned and rustic locations, often driving great distances to find them.

EWW: Do you have any style in your photography that seems to repeat itself from one work to another? (I.e. color. perspective, types of shots, movement, etc.)

Jason: I am always trying to expand my vision and shaping how I want to portray various subjects. Although I shoot a variety of subject matter, I typically shoot mini projects or themes as I come across a subject that I enjoy, as long as I am having fun and creatively producing art that resonates with who I am as an artist. I don’t think that I have a particular style that I use frequently; definitely not one that someone who views my art would notice.

EWW:  There appears to be a growing number of photographers that spend time working with HDR.  Do you use HDR with any of your shots?

Jason: I’ve used HDR with a few of my images, typically some of the earlier images when the dynamic range of my digital cameras weren’t as good as they are today. With the current generation of digital cameras, they are able to capture an incredible amount of information; far more than film could (especially colour transparency). I currently don’t use HDR much at all. I’m not a fan of the grunge look often associated with HDR processing. If HDR is used on a photograph, I’d rather it be used subtly and not overdone.

EWW: Tell us about your training in photography?

Jason: I am self-taught. With a technical background, the technical aspect of photography was easy for me to grasp. I enjoy the technological and creative aspects of the craft equally. I did participate in a few night school courses at a local college but that was more for fun and networking than for learning as I was already proficient with the subject matter. I taught myself through plenty of reading and experimentation. I put in a lot of hours and spent a lot of effort getting to my current level of knowledge; however the journey of learning never ends. As for the creative aspect, like many I studied photographs from established photographers. I also read the collection of books by Freeman Patterson for learning all about visual design and how to feel and get intimate with the subject. Wherever I went, with or without my camera, I was (and still do) visualize what I think the most effective composition for a given subject would be. One of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years is that it is too easy to stifle your creativity if you obsess over the technology. Being technologically proficient and knowing how to use your equipment inside and out is very important. But to me, creating my art is the most important reason I started photographing.

EWW: What do you see as major challenges for photographers today?

Jason: These challenges include honing business skills, standing out in a constantly expanding sea of photographers and staying true to their style of photography. Becoming a good entrepreneur requires good business skills. These skills may not be the most enjoyable thing to spend time learning but are vital to running a successful business. Long gone are the days where great images sold themselves. In order to be noticed, you must constantly set yourself apart from the average photographer. Always strive to improve your vision and creative talents and keep an open mind. Always stay true to what you love to photograph and/or your expertise.

EWW:  What do you see as major challenges for photographers today, in terms of promoting and marketing their work?

Jason: The toughest challenges include the utilization of social media efficiently, thinking out of the box and following up with potential clients. Social media is a great tool for getting your name and product out to the masses. However, it is very easy to not use it efficiently and therefore waste time and effort. Ensuring that some of your communication includes information that may benefit members of your social networks and not only yourself is beneficial to establishing a strong social media presence. It is getting more and more difficult to find effective advertising and marketing campaigns. Always ensure to follow-up with a potential client. Traditional ways of advertising can be very costly with little return on investment.

EWW:  In your opinion, what are the minimal activities that a photographer should be doing in terms of promotion and marketing?

Jason: In my opinion, these would include effectively using social media, getting involved with local industry groups and creating a unified and professional online presence (branding, quality website, domain name, etc). All of these efforts require little to no money. Some of them require a larger time commitment than others. However, word of mouth and recommendations travel fast. A positive recommendation can promote your business and generate clients faster and more effectively than a lot of physical promotional mailers or advertisements.

EWW: Do you use social media to market your work and if you do, why or why not?

Jason: I use social media to market my work because it can get your name and product out to a lot of people, has a potentially high return on investment if done properly and can be utilized to fill any downtime during the day. The key to using social media is to target potential clients and not just create a following of individuals who may care nothing about your offering. Much like a business, spending time upfront when setting up your social media network will help with its long term effectiveness.

EWW:  What advice would you give to someone that wants to pursue photography as more than just simply and avocation?

Jason: I would suggest that the photographer know what they want to photograph, be better than average at it and be able to diversify. It’s very difficult being a one trick pony these days.  Unless photographing in a very unique niche, it is very beneficial if the photographer can provide workshops/lectures or other photo related services.

EWW: Is there anything else Jason that you think would be important to know about you or your photography?

Jason: I always try to keep a positive and optimistic outlook on life. I am always willing to help someone if I am able to. I believe that sharing information and skills is important since we must never forget where we came from or those that helped us early in our journeys. I am very passionate about my photography and the services that I provide and am very fortunate and count my blessings that I am able to do what I love.