Monday, October 15, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Allan Warren explains how a master photographer does his work

This is the third segment of a four-part series spanning my discussion with Allan Warren. The first and second articles are available on-line. Text quoted below appeared in yesterday's piece, offering background on the subject matter.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

Photography is an art unlike any other. There is something profound to be said about capturing a single moment in time and preserving it for countless more.

Allan Warren has experience with this the likes of which most of us can hardly imagine. Beginning his career while still a teenager, he has photographed royalty, movie stars, playwrights, singers, and far too many other personalities to mention.

Of course, I will drop a few names: Dionne Warwick, Prince Charles, Roger Moore, Christopher Isherwood, Barbra Streisand, Prince Philip, King Constantine of Greece, Cary Grant, Debbie Reynolds, David Niven, and the list goes on. Check it out for yourself here

While Warren is most famous for his photography, his career is far more diverse than some might think. Over the years, he has written books, plays, and, interestingly enough, started out as an actor.

In 2012, I asked Warren what the greatest reward of his career was.

"Independence and never having to leave one’s home to earn a living," he responded.

Warren had something else to say: "I think the age of portrait photographers, earning a living from photographing people, is over. The other day a friend of mine snapped a portrait of an actor with an iPhone and it was by far a better picture than I could have take with all my so-called professional camera and lights."

Sobering news indeed from a man who made his career behind the camera -- with notable names standing in front of it and paying for the privilege. Nonetheless, Warren still has much wisdom to impart. He recently spoke with me in a wide-ranging conversation. Some of it is included below.

Joseph Ford Cotto: Several businesses now choose to take their own pictures; even for professional profiles and corporate events. What specifically accounts for this phenomenon?

Allan Warren: Again it has to be down to the cost and convenience of the iPhones and digital cameras. They are almost idiot proof. Just put a camera on automatic or programme, set the lens on autofocus and will do it all. It won’t be long before it’ll make you a cup of tea at the same time.

Cotto: News organizations do not pay photographers anything near what they used to -- adjusted for inflation, of course. Is this a result of untold cheaper, or even royalty-free, images being available on-line, an increased number of photographers competing for the same client base, or is there a very different explanation?

Warren: Yes, I think there are many stock photographs that are out there, on the Internet, that are free. I myself have donated quite a large amount of portraits to Wikimedia. For me it was to allow people, without any budget working on small projects to have the freedom of usage without having the threat of any legal action taken against them. In other words give them a break. 

I have noticed, though, many publications, who could well afford fees, sadly have also taken advantage of that, but it least it does some good. I think another reason for lower fees for photographers is news desks are bombarded with images, where it be war torn areas, droughts or celebrities. There are now so many more people out there doing it.

Cotto: Would a master photographer be more concerned with the appearance of his or her subject or how this subject relates to the surrounding environment?

Warren: I think that would depend on who and where the subject is. If, for instance, it is a duke or a duchess having a portrait taken at their family seat, then it is important that they convey that they are very much at home. What they are wearing is of little importance. If it is a formal portrait of somebody whether it be in a ball gown with a tiara, or dinner jacket, white tie or mess kit. They must be seen to be relaxed and not let the outfit appear to wear them. So as not to come across as looking uncomfortable. It is about wearing the outfit, no matter how formal, with confidence.

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