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Member Profile - Tim Fuller


Member Profile

Tim Fuller

 

Please give us a thumbnail sketch of your life/career.

 

I feel very lucky to make a living renting my eyes and brain. It's all about solving visual puzzles and making images that can communicate quickly. A person should be able to look at an image I have made for no more than five seconds and know who the subject is and what they do. It should also be visually rich enough to make the viewer want to look longer and to keep seeing more. I have a background in theater and I try to involve subjects in a collaborative process so that we are all working together to make a unique image. Being a director in shaping a common goal creates a wonderful spirit that shows in the final image. I have been shooting almost exclusively digitally since March of 2002. At this point I use a Canon 1Ds that creates a file that will produce an image of 300 dpi at about 13.5 by 9.25 inches. It has been a total joy and a revolution for me in being able to creatively control the process of making images. So what's my specialty? I love to take a concept and design it into a two dimensional visual solution. Photos that communicate ideas: that's what I'm good at. At this point I have the skill, the staff and the equipment to do it well.

 

 

Tim Fuller

© Tim Fuller

 

How did you become interested in photography?

 

I went to a boarding school in Sedona, Arizona called Verde Valley School. In our class of 24 four of us became professional photographers. It was there that I first took photos. Even though I wasn't greatly interested in photography at the time I remember being fascinated, watching a print appear before my eyes under the the magic red light of the safelight. When I was studying architecture as a junior at the University of Arizona, I was swept up by the spirit of freedom of expression that was growing all over American campuses in the mid-sixties. I felt that discovering a means of personal self expression was more important to me than the school work that I was involved in. I lived with a group of people of like minds on the north side of the UA campus and shot a couple of rolls of slides everyday. I shot color infrared film, through color gels of subjects as disparate as lovely young women and dog turds on cracked linoleum. The work was wacky and sophomoric but I loved shooting and it led to my first show at the Jewish Community Center. As I was taking down my work after the show was done I ran into a guy that was putting his show up next who said "Nice work, you should really learn more about photography." His work was very lovely smooth black and white prints and that led me to more photography classes and finally to a workshop with Minor White at his home in Arlington Mass.

 

What has been your most interesting or favorite assignment/ situation/or person?

 

My most interesting assignment was one of my first and it was self assigned. I went to the concert at Woodstock and talked my way into a backstage pass. Since, of course, I didn't have any credentials, I told them that I worked for the Long Beach Free Press. It took three hours of going from office to office in the trailers outside the event before I was finally able to convince them to give me a pass. I created this story because a year before that I had been shooting at a Byrds concert in LA and a guy came up to me and asked if I would mind if my work was used in the Long Beach Free Press with his review of the concert and I , naturally thrilled at the chance, gave him my undeveloped pushed Tri X. Needless to say when I called the paper in Long Beach a few days later no one had ever heard of the guy. The concert was wonderful and I got to spend time with fiends in front of the stage and bands backstage. I was walking away from the stage trying to find somewhere to sleep because Sha Na Na was playing The morning that Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner and then I heard the opening chords of The Star Spangled Banner and I hurried back to the stage to find it almost empty of people. I slipped onto stage and shot Hendrix from less than fifteen feet. From this I learned the lesson of how to turn no to yes, how to use the guy stealing my film into a press pass and the value of persistence.

 

Tim Fuller

© Tim Fuller

What is important to you?

 

My family and my work. Having children has been the most important part of my life and in a distant second place comes the work I do. And I love my work. Daily, I get to make a series of creative decisions, one after another. I get to connect with people and light and ideas on a regular basis.

 

How have you taught yourself to adapt to change?

 

Change is my friend. I embrace it. My life is all about how I can make images that are different from anything I have shot before or seen before. I may not be successful at this all the time but at the same time it is what I'm always reaching towards. Without change I couldn't do this. And at the same time, its scary sometime. Doing work that that pushes me, can push me close to the edge of my comfort zone. But like stage fright it is generally before the fact, before I shoot when I am still puzzled as to how I am going to make a wonderful image when I can't figure out a thing. But most of the time , sooner or later, by trying one idea after another and seeing what starts to work the ideas take form and soon I'm gulping images in though my lens, sometimes shaking and mumbling with excitement.

 

What are the most important things you have learned?

 

The reason that I hate the bumper stickers that say "Shit Happens" is that it blind to a parallel observation which is that "Serendipity Happens" just as regularly. Things go wrong all the time with plans that you have made in shooting work but if you let it make you nuts it blinds you to huge opportunities that might come along right behind the screw-up. A day in Caracas: I am in the middle of an assignment for McGraw Hill shooting in five Latin American counties over twenty six days. Every day is either a travel day or I am shooting five shots that are set up by producers that I have hired by email but not met before I get to each of these cities. The producer in Caracas had told me that we needed to be ready early this day because she needed to be at an important meeting at the office of the national airline where she has a regular job. I had expected that she was to be with me all day for the shoot and was feeling miffed but my assistant and I were ready on the street outside the hotel at 8 am.

 

The producer showed up finally at 10 am. She said that the meeting was shifted to the morning and she had to go back to the meeting as soon as possible. The days task was to shoot five shots with from two to five models each in a series of home interiors. I assume this will need a couple of locations but she takes us to her apartment where she says we can shoot all the shots (which makes me a little nervous) and there sit not the 12 models we need but two models we have already used and can not use again. She leaves us there and heads back to her meeting. I am feeling more than slightly crazed but I talk to the models, they have friends, their friends have friends and by the end of the day we have made all the shots we needed. Kids are dancing the merengue in the living room as we eat a dish of lightly fried sweet dough (that was cooked for an earlier set up we had shot in the kitchen) with the cop who we had gotten from the street to play the part of the dad in the shot at the dining table we had just finished shooting. Success came from not freaking out and finding ways to solve what seemed to be insoluble.

 

What is your favorite food?

 

I love the foods is the those that I cook for and with my family and children and I love being on assignment in different places and trying food I don't know.

 

Please explain why you joined ASMP?

 

I had started my photographic career as a photojournalist. What I enjoyed most about working on a photo staff with other photographers was a sense of community. We were a team and talked about problems and what we were trying to accomplish. When I left newspapering I found that my freelance peers tended to view each other with the somewhat normal feeling of competition, of being rivals for the limited business that was available in this community. ASMP allowed us to meet with common problems and discuss them more as comrades than competitors.

 

What is your current project?

 

I have been working on a project shooting a series of covers for a small publishing company in Canada. The novelist , Brian Doyle, writes books for children but there is nothing sweet or cute about them. He was short listed for the Hans Christian Anderson Award (like a Nobel for children's fiction) last year. These are stories of children that grew up poor in the Gatineau Valley north of Ottawa in the 30' though the 50's. The children he writes about live in a Faulkner-like world filled with idiosyncratic rich elderly women hard drinking fathers and retarded siblings that bark like dogs. These are kids reacting thoughtfully to the strange and difficult world that surrounds them. The publisher is reprinting six of his books and releasing one new novel of his this year. They wanted to have new covers for the books that shared a look and asked me to help them decide what it might be. I decided to shoot them all in black and white (actually in this digital world everything starts as color) and to use a 50 lens wide open. I felt that this would put the focus right on the eyes of the kids as though you could see into their feelings with everything else(the references to the world they live in) in a sort of shimmering out of focus. I shot two in Tucson and shot the last five in Canada. It has involved finding kids in drama schools, getting wardrobe help from theater techies and scouting the locations of the author's youth with him in Ottawa and up in the valley north of the city.

 

What is something you would like people to know that was not asked?

 

Whenever I would go to a lecture by one of the "name" photographers I would always felt like asking them, " Don't you get freaked out when you aren't working? " It has to do with the natural joy and terror of doing what I love for a living. The fact that I really adore what I do for a living is an amazing gift. The problem is that in all creative life there are cycles. Sometimes you are more creative than other times. Sometimes there is lots of work and sometimes it seems to dry up. There is so much of me bound up in the work I do. It gives me money, it gives me the joy of creating, and it gives me a reference point and a sense of who I am. For these reasons when I have lots of work and every thing is going well I feel terrific. When the work seems to dry up and I don't feel creative I am freaked. I often say that in a typical year the are two weeks when I feel so good about what I am doing that it seems that God has created and designed this world specifically for my pleasure. Then there are also two weeks that I can't sleep because I am sure that I will never work again, Sure that somehow I have managed to fool people about my talents and that now this is the end of the road. The remainder of the year life is just fine. Right now all seems to be in the good to wonderful stage but I know that the freaked out phase is never gone forever. I have not yet figured out how to have the joy without the terror.