IBARIONEX PERELLO - INTERVIEW
Ibarionex Perello is an LA based photographer, educator, & author of several books. He is perhaps best known as the host of what I consider to be the best photography podcast out there: The Candid Frame.
He leads small workshops where he teaches photographers the skills needed to make consistently good photographs. His books follow this theme as well, as he shares his wealth of experience and insight into developing a critical approach to understanding & creating successful images.
For the last 12 years he has been the host of The Candid Frame Podcast where he shares insightful & inspiring interviews with photographers both well known, as well as new and emerging talents.
Recently on one of your podcasts, you talked about a trip you were taking, and in it you said that despite going to a big famous location, you wanted to focus on the little details of the trip, the stuff we often overlook. Can you talk a little about that, and why you think that is important?
It was an idea that I suggested to one of my-long term students who at the time was traveling throughout South and Central America. I observed that there were many elements of his travel experiences that were missing from his images. I suggested that he touch on those little details that normally would be undocumented. I suggested that there was nothing so mundane that it might not be worthy of a photograph. He really took that to heart and the results were images that really revealed the intimacy of his travels with his girlfriend and their two friends. It memorialized what the whole experience was in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with the typical travel photography approach. So, I decided to take my own advice and do that myself. I have to admit that it was a greater challenge than I had anticipated because I had to shift my mindset from what I typically shoot to focusing on moments that were far more ordinary, but which really helped to flesh out the story. It was an interesting experiment that I look forward to repeating.
On the same subject, talk to us about traveling as a photographer. I know that I often have the difficult challenge of balancing my wishes as a photographer with spending time with my family on trips. How do you manage that?
When I travel with family and friends, there is an understanding that at some point I’m going to get up and wander, especially if the light is good. So, if we are sitting at a café or a bar having a drink, they understand that I may leave for a bit to take advantage of such opportunities. I’m also a very early riser and so I will sometimes get up in the wee hours of the morning when the light is especially nice to photograph, later returning to the hotel or flat to have breakfast and get prepared for an outing. I am constantly seeing and observing regardless of where I am and what I’m doing, so I’m always at the ready. This allows me to both spend time with family and friends, but also take advantage of a potential moment when it arises.
I’ve heard you make some really good points about focus. Not about camera focus, but mental focus… in regards to when you are out doing street photography (or really any type of photography). Can you give us a little insight into this idea?
I am always actively seeing. I am observing the quality of the light, the presence of shadows, etc. I look at the lines and shapes and color and the fluid moments involving people that change from minute to minute. It’s a mental exercise that I have repeated so often and for so long that I often discover moments that most people miss and would never consider worthy of a photograph. I can be driving down an alleyway and catch the light and shadow on a wall and I’ll stop the car, get out and make some photographs of it. Though it’s much easier to do this when navigating a walking city like New York or Paris, it’s nevertheless a way of focusing on my own seeing that allows me to create many of my photographs.
Tell us about your latest book ‘Making Photographs: Developing a Personal Visual Workflow’. Describe your thought process around what you are referring to as the ‘personal visual workflow’.
I have been teaching workshops for a long time and one of the frustrations that most of my students shared was their struggles to make good photographs consistently. They have invested in great equipment, read books and even attended other workshops, but they felt that their good images were more a result of luck than skill or talent.
They would often return from our time in the field, telling me they didn’t think that they had produced anything good. Yet, when I would sit down to critique their images, I would often find some gems in the bunch. However, they didn’t understand what they were doing or the vocabulary to assess why some of their images worked or didn’t.
So, I wrote the book based on what I had begun sharing with my students in my workshops. There I teach them my personal way of seeing where I break down scenes into light and shadow, line and shape, color and gesture and how I use those evaluations to compose and make my photographs. I then later use those very same values to evaluate and cull the images later when I am sitting down at my computer. That fundamental understanding of what makes an image successful was never taught to them. It’s my hope that this book will provide photographers that lynchpin of knowledge that I believe with transform how and why they make photographs.
You are a photographer, a writer, an educator, and the host of the Candid Frame podcast. That seems like a lot to juggle! How do you manage doing all of the above while staying organized and on top of things, not to mention having a life outside of work?
It’s not easy. There are so many things that I need to do every day, but thankfully I am an early riser. I begin my day at around 5 am and get to the gym, read and meditate, walk the dog and have breakfast with my wife. Those things really help me to be fully awake to tackle the long list of things I want to accomplish each day. Every part of my day, even the most mundane chores and errands, are written down, which helps me not to overlook or forget anything. There are always things that come up that throw my schedule off, but I try my best to get as much done by Saturday morning, freeing me for the rest of the afternoon and leaving Sunday completely free.
You have been doing the Candid Frame podcast for over 12 years…Do you manage to find inspiration in every episode? In other words, do you gain some insight from each one?
Yes, I do. I learn so much from each conversation and often times it’s not just about photography. I get invited into someone’s life and work in a way that might never happen otherwise. Also, I just love the process of interviewing someone and finding ways of delving deep with each person and hopefully getting them to explore some aspect of themselves and their work that they have never discussed before or if they have, approach it in a very different way. My fans and I love when during each interview the guests responds with, “That’s a good question.” I know I’m the right track when I hear that.
I know you do workshops and enjoy teaching small groups of photographers. Can you tell us a little about that? What can someone expect to gain from a workshop with you?
My time with my students is teaching them how to see in new ways. Yes, it’s about making photographs, but more importantly, it’s about flipping that switch that once turned on changes the way they observe the world forever. It’s my hope that after my time with them, they will have discovered a new way of seeing that then informs the way and why they photograph. Every session, I see a marked difference in the work that a student produces. They are surprised themselves and that’s incredibly gratifying. I don’t think it’s right to simply create an opportunity for people to make some cool photographs, but not provide them the skills to be able to create those opportunities for themselves afterward. I strive to do just that and I love hearing from students afterward who tell me how much their photography after the workshop has improved and become more purposeful.
You have interviewed some incredible & legendary photographers over the years. There must be at least one person that you haven’t had on the show yet, but would really love to?
There is definitely more than one. The list is so long. But if I could interview someone tomorrow, the first person that comes to mind would be Josef Koudelka. The man is amazing and the chance to sit across from him and talk to him for an hour or two would be amazing. I hope I can make it happen.
What do you love most about what you do?
Just that I’m doing it. I know how lucky I am that all the things that I’m doing revolve around photography, something that I’ve loved to do since I was a kid. Virtually, everything that I do each day are things that I have chosen to do or created myself. I recognize how rare a thing that is and consider myself blessed to have a life like this.
One of my favourite questions you always ask in your interviews is the last one, and so I will borrow that from you to end our little Q&A: Who is one photographer that inspires you and you would recommend we check out?
At this moment, I would have to say Dotan Saguy. He is a young photographer based in Los Angeles who just recently released a book on his personal project on Venice Beach. It’s called Venice Beach: The Last Day of a Bohemian Paradise. Not only is the work amazing, but his story about how he created and sustained the project and eventually released it as an amazing book is just inspiring.
You can find Ibarionex Perello online here:
‘Making Photographs’ Book: https://rockynook.com/shop/photography/making-photographs/
Use the promo code PERELLO40 to receive 40% off the list price.