I recently received an email from the amazing still life photographer James Worrell who made a great little film about plastic water bottles. I have always loved his still life work, so I asked him about his career, and he was gracious enough to respond.
How did you become a photographer?
I have been a photograper for as long as I can remember, since that first instamatic as a kid to the used Watson Press Camera in college. It was when I was living in LA about to start my MFA program at CalArts that I became a commercial photographer. Faced with well over 50 grand in loans I dropped out and started assisting two great photographers in LA and found my calling.
Whose work inspires you (past or present)?
Sugimoto, John Baldasari, Joel Peter Witkin, Vic Muniz, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Craig Cutler, Carlton Davis, Robert Tardio, Christopher Griffith
What brought you to still life?
I had always been attracted to objects and to arranging of objects. In undergrad my work took many elements and contructed them into a single object, usually a group of photographs to be viewed as one image. I assisted pros for about 3 years in my early 20s and of course, we all wanted to be fashion photographers. But I took an immediate liking to the still lifers, less people involved and less attitude. The technical side
of commercial still life really complimented my fine art background and after about 6 months of assisting I knew I would be a still life photographer.
Your work is so clean and your colors so strong. How did your style evolve?
When I started shooting in the early 90s I became obsessed with clean, simple still life. At the time it seemed to me that everything was over lit and over fussed. It was in the days of shooting chrome and getting a clean shot, especially on white, was and is trickier than one might think. I started using color as a natural way to add something to the photos without adding more stuff. This in turn became a bit of obsession with color, monochromatic color schemes in particular. My style is always evolving but always seems to have a bit of those first years mixed in.
What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?
I had been assisting for a few years and was getting burned out, I really wasn't a great assistant anymore but was caught in that classic Catch-22 of not having any money
but needing money to start my own business, etc. One of my regular gigs was assisting Carlton Davis, he sat me down one day and said James, it's time. You need to go out on your own and you need to do it now. If you wait too much longer you will get stuck as a full time assistant. I will continue to hire you as an assistant when I can but it's time.
He kicked me out of the nest in such a gentle, encouraging way, I will never forget it. It was terrifying, it was some of the best advice I have ever gotten.
What made you do the water film? Was it your first?
I have been a fan of stop action and fast cut video for years. With the economy in the tank and the rise of the internet it seemed a perfect time to experiment with new ways of using photography. How are we going to stand out in the crowd in this economy? The regular forms of promotion are not working and nobody has any money. So I have begun experimenting with unconventional promotions and it has been a blast. I started last year by doing a poster, something everyone tells you not to do. Then I began self publishing my own "magazine" on Magcloud.com a really great way to make a substantial promo for a reasonable amount of money. I have made magnets, bookmarks, greeting cards and have just published a blurb book. The stop action video is one idea I have been bouncing around for a while and has turned out to be the most rewarding of the things I have tried this year.
What was your aim?
I began it purely as a promotional vehicle, to show what I can do, but I am an environmentalist and a music lover so I just did something I wanted to do. Plastic water bottles really annoy me.
How hard/easy was it? How have you promoted it?
it wasn't that hard but video editing is time consuming. The 1 minute 17 second film took me 3 days to storyboard, shoot and edit. I have promoted it on line via email to my existing clients and friends, to hopeful clients and to other cool blogs. It's on YouTube, my website, various blogs, etc.
Are you going to do more?
Yes, I had so much fun with this one I am already working on a new one.