Photographer Authur Meyerson on The Color of Light

One of the best things about living in Seattle is the number of top notch people who come through this town. Seattle's population boasts one of the highest advanced degrees per capita, and we buy more books, per person, than anywhere else in the United States. With Microsoft,, and other leaders of intellectual industry in close proximity, it makes good sense to swing through Seattle. We have a population that supports the arts, and the city is accessible enough to make attending a lecture on a rain sodden Thursday night, worthwhile.

Legendary photographer, Authur Meyerson was in town last week, teaching a workshop on "The Color of Light." (Description at the bottom.) While I couldn't get into the workshop, I was able to attend a meet & greet, followed by a slideshow based on his work.

Perhaps it stems from the Texas affinity for sharing stories, but Authur Meyerson has a gift for imparting his knowledge. Listening to this charming Texan, we were guided through a myriad of subjects. Meyerson described his assignments and detailed exactly what he was looking for when he snapped various shots. It made me regret not taking his workshop.

I was trying to jugle furiously thaking notes, while keeping one eye on the screen, watching multiple images from Meyerson's vast body of work. Every now and then, there'd be an image so striking, I was forced to stifle a little gasp.

Below is a collection of random notes from his talk. Perhaps something here will resonate with you:

What is the Color of Light?
- Meyerson says he has a "love affair with light"
- It's the art of capturing color & movement

Commercial Work
- He shot commercial work for Coca Cola for over 25 years, and a host of other clients.
- It's important to make something interesting.
- Scout out your shots, but avoid any preconceptions. Be open to what's available.
- While you're focused in front of you, remember to turn 180 degrees. Some of his most interesting shots were taken behind where he was set up.

Black & White
- Black & White and Color are like two different languages. They require you to think differently.

Developing Your Style
- "If you're good enough, you can shoot in all kinds of conditions - test yourself." He illustrated several examples where he shot midday (when color is tough), low light, and in the rain.
- Work in as many different lights as you can. (Illustrating his point, he shot the same area in Paris at "dawn o'clock", sunset, dusk, and early evening. Each day, going back to get photos at different times.)
- Try working midday with shadows. "Midday is tough -- especially for color, right?" Get the shadows.

Carry Your Camera
- The more you carry it, the more you see.
- Don't talk about the shot, get it.
- Be prepared.

Photographing People
- Pay attention to hand gestures, reflections, and looking through things.
- Find the expressions.
- Use windows as a framing device.
- In his wry humor, Meyerson said, "If you shoot people through windows, they can't get at you!"

- Dawn & sunset -- follow the light.

Find the Moment
- "The Moment" reveals itself in light, gesture, surprise.
- "The Moment" is story telling.
- Look for the expression.

The Business of Photography
- If you're doing work commercially, he couldn't emphasize this enough, "Get a model release."
- If you're working in another country, get your model releases prepared in the local language, "People need to know what they are signing."
- If you're working with models, typically they have their own release.
- When in doubt, get a model release.

Lifelong Project
- Always work on a project of your own. For Meyerson, it was cowboys. He went to a ranch in Texas and photographed them for days every spring and fall. His work on cowboys spans over eight years, thus far.
- Then he showed an 8 minute slideshow of his cowboy work, with music, prepared in Quick Time.

How Often Do You Use a Tripod?
- He used to use one all the time, but he's been a handheld shooter for 25 years.
- "Digital has been a fantastic development because, technically, it's hard to screw up."
- As a spontaneous shooter, he does handheld work. Commercial work? Tripod.
- The bigger the lens, use a tripod.

The Impact of Digital Photography
- It's raised the bar for photographers. The commercial market is saturated. "But I don't know if it's any harder now than it was 25 years ago. It's just different."
- The influx of people who have never picked up a camera, now start shooting digital and come into the market, commercial photographers need to be better. "And why shouldn't they [be better]? No one said it was easy."

Corporate Annual Reports
- Corporate reports used to be a big slice of the commercial work available. Now many companies are doing away with annual reports, or posting them on the web.

Working with a Client
- He worked with Coca Cola for 25 years. Try to vary the style.
- "It's about collaboration with the art director. You're not just doing the work for a check. You owe it to the client to do it their way. You owe it to yourself to do it your way."

Working with Your Subjects
- Get on a level playing field with your subject.
- Build trust with an intimate situation. Be a fly on the wall. Observe and be aware of your surroundings.
- Always go back with prints. It's a pain and a hassle, but it's important build that rapport.

Get the Shot
- It's like fishing. Some days, the fishing's good, some days it's not.
- But for commercial work? "You HAVE to get the shot. You HAVE to come back with something -- and I don't mean an excuse. "

Technique vs. Style
- If you find something that you can do and no one else can, you've got something.
- Have a vision.
- It's not about technique. With just a technique, you're hot one minute, not another.
- To be remembered, you must develop your own style.

Parting Advice?
- If your heart is in it, you need to work and make sacrifices.
- For commercial photography? "Get a rep. Now a days it's a good idea. And you've got to have a website. "
- "You gotta market yourself."
- The more you shoot, the more you make a name for yourself.
- Be consistent and work on continuity. You want your work to be recognizably associated with you. Name --> Image. Name ---> Image.
- "It's tough...and why shouldn't it be?"


Authur Meyerson Photography


Workshop at Art Wolfe's Studio:
Arthur Meyerson: The Color of Light
5-Day Program: $1100
November 5-9, 2008

This workshop is designed for both amateur and professional photographers wishing to strengthen their abilities to see and work in color. Through daily shooting assignments, critiques, and discussions, participants acquire techniques to become more sensitive to light and its effects on color, composition, texture, pattern, and design. Our main focus is on investigating color from a personal point of view. Arthur guides and inspires participants to see how their unique vision of the world can help to develop and refine an individual style for personal enjoyment or commercial success. In addition to addressing the aesthetics of color photography, Arthur leads group critiques and spends individual time with each participant. Daily assignments put classroom discussions into practice and take advantage of the stunning light and color of the area. Participants leave at the end of the week with a greater awareness and an enhanced sensitivity to light and color.