American Photo: Capturing L.A. modernism and Mexican style.
In photographs such as an exterior of the Richard Neutra designed Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, which was shot for his book Los Angeles, Street-Porter uses perspective control, the shifting of the lens relative to the camera back to keep the lines of the structure from converging, a perennial problem in images of architecture. “I wanted to get a strong perspective view of this wonderful house. Modernism does not get any better than this!”
Because of the informal entry into his career, Street-Porter didn’t always have such technical savvy. At first he relied on assistants and even camera-shop employees to learn technique. One of his first assignments required the use of a 4x5 view camera. “I had never seen one of these intimidating machines. No problem — an assistant was on hand to operate it for me.”
Having since mastered the mechanics of medium and large format cameras, 2010 marks the year that Street-Porter takes another leap and goes digital. “Digital is altogether very sexy — it’s such a pleasure to see the image you just captured appear on the screen of the laptop, hovering like an attendant butler.”
The seduction of digital shooting has won him over. Though he still loves film, he plans to purchase an Alpa camera system with a Phase One digital back. “Alpas offer all the wide-angle coverage and perspective correction an architectural photographer needs and is a beautifully precise instrument to use, with a handmade feel.” He also plans to buy a Canon EOS 5D Mark II for “more-spontaneous shooting.”
Freelance magazine photography can be good business, but Street-Porter admits that “there are no rules” to creating relationships and landing consistent work with magazines. Even so, there are several ways to increase the odds of staying in favor with editors.
• Keep editors up to date. Street-Porter often informs the editors he works with about when and where he travels, in case they have additional work for him in the area.
• Deliver on the shot list, and then some. Give the magazine all the shots they ask for, and then give them additional, creative shots they didn’t realize they needed.
• Stay on location if it looks like conditions could improve to help capture the best images. Putting in extra time, especially with dynamic subjects, can yield unexpected photo ops. Ambient lighting (and other factors) can enhance a subject at different times of the day.
• Every magazine has its own workflow. Unless editors make unreasonable demands, it’s beneficial to keep them happy by adapting to their procedures.
• Knowledge is powerful. When discussing upcoming assignments, a photographer’s insights into a subject can lead to clearer visions of and expectations for shoots, making the photographer’s job a little easier.