Interview With Innovative & Conceptual
Photographer Colin Anderson

Gracing the cover of MacTribe Magazine's new issue, Colin Anderson always delivers the knockout image we find ourselves discussing long after that first view. Insightful, interesting and funny, MacTribe's interview takes us deep into his creative process. Get into his brain with us and see where he gets the inspiration for his incredible images.

MacTribe: Your photography has almost a movie director's touch. Are you a major movie enthusiast and do they influence your creations?

Colin Anderson: I love the epic feel that many movies have, so that's how I approach my images-- with a story in mind. Usually when I'm photographing a model I will say to them "this has happened" or "this is going to happen" and it helps them to get into the theme. I didn't see a lot of movies as a kid but I did read fanatically and would play out the scenes in my head for hours afterwards. I remember reading Lord of the Rings and almost having a sensory overload; Peter Jackson's adaptation of it was so mind blowing and perfect, l'm still in awe of what he did. But it's movies like Citizen Kane I would have to cite as a lasting influence, because the direction is fascinating, not just the story. It's very powerful on so many levels. Yeah, so l do get a lot of inspiration from movies more so than stills, my brain seems to think more that way. A lot of my pictures are stories or scenarios l've imagined and I just grab a moment to show as the photograph. I've always found this a great way to create.

MT: Your work shows not only a great eye for photography but a mastery of photo software like Adobe Creative Suite. How much do you use these tools?

CA: Photoshop is my workhorse and I spend most of my waking hours using it. When l used to work in advertising l loved the program so much that l would do all my layouts in it, which drove the designers and finished artists nuts. I remember seeing it for the first time in the early 90's before l even had access to a computer and thinking this is it, nothing will be the same again, anything is possible, this is what l've been waiting for. Now l can go anywhere.

Colin Anderson"I love the epic feel that many movies have, so that's how I approach my images: with a story in mind."

--Colin Anderson

MT: There is a mythological, esoteric touch to some of your images. Your output would be very comfortable in a production like Alice in Wonderland. How did you get started using 3D in your images?

CA: It's just another powerful tool to help create something from almost nothing. If l need a castle, l don't need to fly half way around the world to get one...l can build one! It offers complete and utter control. Once it's built you can use whatever lens you want, whatever texture, whatever angle, whatever lighting, but it's a very, very difficult thing to master. It gets a lot of bad press with the attitude that "oh yes but it's just all CG", but the time and artistry that goes into it is beyond belief. I wish l could spend more time on it, because it probably is, beside one's imagination, the ultimate creative tool.

MT: Your name is synonymous with the collective of photographers known as Blend Images. Can you describe your relationship to Blend these days?

CA: I'm one of the co-founding members/owners of and am really proud of what's been achieved since we began. It was founded by photographers, it's run by photographers and it has continuously moved forward and grown in an unbelievably volatile time for the industry. This year we're introducing motion as part of our collection which l'm very excited about. We've grown our collection from nothing to 100,000 images with 130 shooters in just six years with distribution throughout the world...not an easy thing to do in an over supplied, oversaturated market.

MT: The business of photography has undergone stunning upheavals and changes in the past decade. Do you find the business more difficult now than you did then?

CA: From a professional standpoint there's no doubt things are tougher. There's a lot going on at a meteoric pace. But, you know, it has never been an easy business. You need to bring something new or better to the table than the next guy. That being said though, new opportunities are coming up and l have never been in a more productive or rewarding time in my career.

Colin AndersonMT: Image industry trends seem to be moving toward video and footage offerings. You've made this jump already--how is it different from your photography work?

CA: That's been the real trick for me...figuring out how l could adapt my style and move into that area. From the start l knew that it would involve working with 3D and green screens if l was going to make it work. So for the last few months l have been spending countless hours trying to learn these techniques. Finally l'm seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and am so excited about it--it's hard and it's time consuming but very cool and l find myself wanting to do it. The devil is in the details--with photography you have one image at a time to worry about and make perfect. With footage you can go crazy trying to make sure the story flows, it's edited the best way possible, and that there is consistency from one scene to the next, and then it needs to look good technically, which means fighting with green screens and new lighting techniques. There is just so much more to consider and to watch now. l'm starting from scratch and trying to figure it all out while still balancing the photography side, but l want to be good at it and am striving to get the quality to a level l'm proud of. I'm already there in my head: l know what l want to do, l can see it, it's just my ability has to catch up with my imagination.

MT: I notice your backgrounds and models pick up themes from many different lands and cultures. Are you an extensive traveler in your everyday life?

CA: I don't get to travel as much as l would like or used to. My daughter's getting older and it's harder for us to just go and shoot like we once did, and l'd rather not go than leave my family behind. But we usually try to travel somewhere two to three times a year which works just fine.

MT: Have you ever thought about offering courses in your approach to using different elements for designing imagery?

CA: That's funny, a company offered to bring me to the U.S. a while back to do just that. I declined: I worried that no one would turn up and then got more worried that they would. Teaching is just not me. I hate talking in public; l'm more than happy to share information and techniques with anybody but a structured seminar or work shop environment just makes me shudder. l think to teach well you need a certain outgoing, extroverted personality and l don't have either of those. I'd be like a deer in the headlights.

MT: What equipment do you use to make your magic?

CA: My main work machine is a Mac Quad Core Intel running 18 GB of RAM. I have a 30-inch Cinema display and use a Wacom 21 Cintiq. l mainly shoot medium format with a Mamiya 645 and Leaf digital back (running Leaf software for capture and output). I use the Canon 5D for motion and some stills (Capture 1 Pro for outputting stills). Lighting wise, l use Broncolor with a variety of banks, beauty lights, grids and so on. Software-wise CS4 (CS5 soon) is the main work horse. For 3D, I use Maxon Cinema 4D primarily and Poser occasionally. For footage, I have Final Cut Pro and Primatte Pro by Red Giant for green screen stuff. Next will be After Effects. Besides that, l don't use as much software as people would think.

MT: What are you are currently working on?

CA: I'm doing a lot more commissioned work . The process of advertising is great in that I get to think in a different way and create images that l may have never come up with on my own; a problem is thrown at me and I get to solve it. I love the challenge of a difficult brief--what I hate is when you know that you've got something right but the client won't go with it or waters the idea down. It's also highly stressful, and people's jobs can be on the line so everyone gets kind of neurotic. I've just wrapped up a rather intense fashion catalogue shoot...I was able to adapt some of my images from a shipwreck theme that l had first done for myself into this project which worked out nicely. The client stood back and let me do pretty much what I wanted which is kind of rare.

MT: What's a typical day on an assignment with Colin Anderson?

CA: I'm an early riser so the day usually starts for me around 3 am. l shoot from my home so l often start pre-lighting at this time unless we're working with a set (which would already be lit and ready to go) then l just start fine tuning and making sure everything is working. We almost always start shooting at 10 am so people can get to the studio on time without heavy traffic excuses. Nothing drives me nuts more than people being late. More often than not, the shots are going to be a composite, so we are often stopping and processing the shots out and dropping them into the layout to make sure we have it and all the elements are working together. Depending on the deadline l sometimes have to start compositing the shot to final art immediately after the shoot which can lead to a very long day. Besides that it's all pretty much like any other shoot.

Find more in the latest issue of MacTribe Magazine available at Barnes & Noble.
To subscribe and get two free issues visit here.
For more on Colin Anderson visit his website:
All Images Copyright Colin Anderson. Used by Kind Permission.

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