av Vibeke Garrod sist endret 2021-06-11T12:52:52+02:00
Ny serie fra biblioteket hvor vi snakker med folk i ulike yrker.

Fotografiet går så langt tilbake som 1830-årene, og de første profesjonelle fotografene kom ikke lenge etter. Som fotograf kan du jobbe innenfor mange områder som mote, portrett, natur, film og mer. Vi skal ta en prat med Jim Hensley som har spesialisert seg innenfor en nisjé, nemlig mat og kokebøker. De siste årene er det spiselige vekster og botanikk som har vært fokus for arbeidet hans, det er jo så mye vakkert i naturen! Jim er opprinnelig amerikaner, derfor synes vi han skulle få svare på morsmålet sitt.

Hvordan startet du med å fotografere, og fant ut at dette var noe du ville satse på?

That goes way back. My father was a doctor full-time and a frustrated artist part-time. He was a very accomplished photographer and had a nice little equipment collection. We’re talking the late 1960s here, so a Pentax Spotmatic with all the lenses in a little brown bag that he let me carry for him. Now I understand that he more or less conned me into the assistant role, but I really loved the glass and the metal of those lenses. I worked odd jobs until I had enough money to buy my own SLR (single-lens reflex camera) when I was around 14. In Junior High and High School photography was my «thing». Always had the camera with me. I doubt that I really thought much about becoming a professional photographer at the time, though. Mostly it was a way to organize my world. Things made more sense through the camera than they did without the camera. It forced me to really look carefully at the world around me.

Har du noen formell utdannelse innen foto?

I studied film in the Fine Arts department at the University of Miami. It was a natural extension of photography. Technically I’m educated as a cinematographer, but I have done that professionally only a few times. 

Du flyttet til Norge fra USA i 1990, hvordan etablerte du en karriere her?

Took awhile. I tried to get into film production, but it was an even smaller community then. One of the things I had done all along was stage work in theaters and concerts. I did a lot of stage lighting in Miami and some here in Oslo. That is a sort of cousin to photography. My wife was working as a freelance photographer and I was working in the kitchen of a restaurant, and it seemed like every other person we met had a camera. Eventually we just found a niche that clicked for us.

Da du startet med foto var det analoge kameraer, og du lagde bilder selv i et mørkerom du satte opp i garasjen til dine foreldre, kan du si litt kort om hvordan det var før den digitale revolusjonen?

That darkroom was a magical place. No one could enter while I worked. I had a little tape deck in there with my music… Anticipation is maybe the one word that comes to mind. In analogue times we all had to wait to see what we had. Now we don’t stop shooting until we know we have the shot. The feedback loop is shorter. Back then we never knew what we had until that moment the image grew out of a blank sheet of paper in the developer tray. It was more of an obvious handcraft then. Pre production, the time between getting an idea and actually taking some photos, was very important. Everything goes much faster now. Also, we had to budget our film. How many rolls should we take? Will it get too hot for them? Will the x-ray machine at the airport ruin them? Digital cameras have eliminated some of a photographer’s worst fears.

Digital fotografering har åpenbart mange fordeler, men er det noe du savner teknisk fra pre-digital foto?

Technical? Not so much. I’m not so in love with cameras anymore like I was as a teenager, but I do really get into lenses. The lens is my reference point. I still use old analog lenses on new digital cameras. The big artistic drawback to digital photography is how «perfect» an image can be. It’s comparatively low risk. Problem is, sometimes an accident is what we need to be interesting. You have to get lost if you want to find someplace new. Most digital cameras are designed to keep you on the path all the time.

Du jobber i team med din partner og kjære Nina Dreyer Hensley, og dere står bak en rekke kokebøker og bilder av mat/spiselige vekster, hvorfor mat?

Why not? At the time it was about as unhip as you could get as a photographer. Fashion and photojournalism was where it was at for most people. We were interested in cooking, and we were photographers, so it seemed like a natural place to go. Since few worked in the niche, it was possible to sneak in, so to speak. And we didn’t know any of the established tricks, so we had to figure it out as we went along. As a result, our work was original. 30 years later we are still here… I think for me cooking a meal is something creative and generous that all of us can do every day. It’s an incredibly positive human activity. I hope I can use my art/craft to inspire people to set aside a little time for making something with meaning.

Hva med etterarbeid / pynting av bilder, er det ikke lett å jukse med teknologi?

Sure. I would never had believed it was possible if some time traveler had warned me when I bought that first camera. But, again, the more perfect a thing is, the less original it appears to be. The big risk is if we all have more or less the same camera technology and identical programs to manipulate images, we tend to produce things that look alike. This should still about when you push the button. We try to capture a unique moment. We react to that moment. That moment is a little piece of truth. Photoshop is a tool. A good one. Learn it. It can be used the way an artist uses a brush or a musician uses a recording studio. But no painting should make you think about the brush, and no recording should remind you of a microphone. It can make photographs more powerful. It can also make them boring. Trust the moment.

Hvilke fotografer har inspirert deg?

Lots. The first one I knew about was W. Eugene Smith who worked for Life magazine during WW2 and after. He really perfected visual storytelling, and was a great humanist as well. I learned a lot from Alfred Stieglitz’s still life photos from the 1920s and 30s. He was a pioneer in modern art. Both of these artists worked in black and white. The first photo artist that shot in color that I was drawn to is William Eggleston. His clear photos of everyday objects always reminds me that the potential for art is everywhere.

Har du noen gode råd til de som ønsker å satse på et yrke som fotograf?

Approach it sideways. Cameras are not that complicated. You will learn it fast enough if you are willing to fail from time to time. Play with the tools enough so that you don’t have to think about them all the time. Work on your sense of style and taste instead. Watch movies and think about what the camera is trying to make you feel. Look at the sky a lot. Clouds are some of a photographer’s most important tools. Knut Bry said that there is no such thing as bad light, and he is right. Put the camera on a tripod and wait for it. Backlight. Backlight makes everything pretty.

Kan du anbefale oss noen gode fotobøker?

Robert Frank «The Americans», Henri Cartier Bresson «The Decisive Moment», William Eggleston «The Democratic Forest», Anastasia Samoylova «FloodZone». I could go on and on, but this is a good start.

Pro Tip: Steidl Books makes the best photo books on the planet. Steidl’s printing is perfect. Each book a work of art on its own.

Du kan låne flere av kokebøkene Jim har bidratt på, sjekk titlene her.

 

Se også: Mitt yrke: journalist