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This installment in the lynda.com Creative Inspirations documentary series introduces the diverse talents of one of the world's great award-winning journalistic photographers, Natalie Fobes. Whether on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea facing frigid cold and 40-foot waves, or capturing a bride and groom moments before I do, Natalie uses her innate storytelling abilities to capture a moment forever. Her instinctive ability to compel her lens to speak so eloquently has garnered her over 200 awards, numerous fellowships, and a finalist spot for a Pulitzer.
Natalie is a mother, teacher, and writer, and is constantly seeking her next creative outlet. From her beautiful home overlooking the Puget Sound to a spectacular nature shoot in the Olympic National Forest, Natalie shares her journey with us through memorable stories and unforgettable images. Watch how she has both braved the elements to get the best shot, and reinvented herself to adapt to the shifting sands of her profession.
(Music playing.) Lynda Weinman: Hello! I'm Lynda Weinman of lynda.com, and we're very lucky to be in Washington State with the wonderful photographer Natalie Fobes. It's so great to be with you. Natalie Fobes: Thank you. Lynda: Thank you. You've let us into your home studio, which is breathtaking and inspiring. Natalie: Thank you. Lynda: So, it seems that you have had an entrepreneurial spirit ever since you started photography.
Can you talk about what that's been like to create your own career? Natalie: Well, it's a challenge certainly, and sometimes harder than other times, like right now is one of those challenging years, but the joy of being your own boss is that you wake up in the morning and just think, "What am I going to do today?" And you are the one who determines what you're going to do today. I'm sure you know that, you know how that works, and so the horizon is huge. I mean, the opportunities are huge for you to go out and explore with your creativity, to expand your knowledge, to do the things that you want to do.
So, I actually don't think I could ever go back to working a 40 hour day. I'm sorry - 40 hour day is what I work now, but a 40 hour week. It's just amazing. It's great! Lynda: And I mean, to me, from the outside looking in, it seems like digital photography has opened photography up to more people. Would you agree with that, or do you think? Natalie: Yes, definitely. In the old days, and I'm talking the old days like eight years ago, when we were Natalie: a lot younger, Lynda: Right.
Natalie: photography still had this magical feeling to it. You'd go in with your transparency film, and you'd set up your lights, and you had all sorts of scrims and everything to take a simple portrait. And then you'd take it back, the lab would process it, you would edit it, show your client, and they'd be just amazed at the magic. You're a magician. Nowadays, the cameras are so good and so instantaneous that you immediately - people can look on the back of the camera and see that they've made an amazing shot, or they look at the back of the camera and say, "Oo, better try it again." And so, in some ways the digital revolution has really broadened the landscape for photographers and photography.
On the other hand, it has kind of taken away some of the mystery and the magic of what photographers used to do. It's as important as ever to be a great storyteller. It's as important as ever to realize that if you're taking a portrait, that the goal of the portrait is to make the person look good. No matter what you're working with, whether it's a film camera or a digital camera, whether you're doing multimedia work, it's all about telling the person's story, and it's all about being true to that person, and not going out of your way to tell a story that's not right, or inaccurate.
Lynda: That makes sense. And I know you've had to reinvent yourself numerous times given what's changed. Natalie: Every other week. It seems like it, yeah. Lynda: What's that been like? Natalie: Well, it's fun. I'm looking on the positive side. The positive side is really fun to learn a new skill. When I first switched from film to digital, there was an explosion of creativity with my work.
I just could not put my camera down. It was, I was doing things that I - experimenting with things that I Natalie: hadn't done in years, like water droplets on the glass, Lynda: Right. Natalie: stuff like that. And so I think that with each time you have to learn a new skill, it must kickstart a piece of your creative brain to really rev up and kind of come up to the challenge. And I think that the next big thing, and the thing that I'm working on now, is Natalie: the multimedia, and I call them moving pictures. Lynda: Mhm.
It's affordable to do cinematography right now, and so that's the next place that I'm going is to really become skilled in that area. Lynda: That's an interesting evolution, because I would think that you had that opportunity earlier on, too, to go towards moving images versus still images and what was it that drew you to still images, and what is it that draws you to moving images? What's the distinction there? Natalie: Well, I think that something that the still images will always have over the moving images is the freezing of that moment in time.
That is so powerful. You thing it back to the Vietnam War, and you don't think of the photographs that were moving photographs back then. You think of those still images, the iconographic images that were haunting. You think, even with the Exxon Valdez oil spill, think of the images that you saw from that, and I bet that you think of mostly still images. So there's something about our brains, maybe the way it's wired, that we grab on to the single photograph, that moment of time that's frozen, and really that is etched in our minds.
The great thing about moving photographs is that you can add sound, like Natalie: our interview. Lynda: Right. Natalie: I mean, it's still a photograph of us sitting here having an interview would not necessarily be something people would want Natalie: to check out. Lynda: Right. Natalie: But it's the words that will be the powerful aspect of the interview. Lynda: Yeah, great points. And what advice would you offer to young aspiring photographers today? Natalie: The first thing I'd suggest to them is to always be true to the subject, whether it's an individual, or a story that they're doing.
Look at it from all areas. Don't just go into a situation and think that you know what the story is going to be. Some of the best stories I've photographed, some of the best individual photographs that I've photographed, happened because I happened to be there, and the person did something that was totally unexpected, but amazing. And I came back for the photographs. So that's the first thing. I think there is too much preconception going on now, especially young photographers trying to do photo stories.
The second thing is that, just keep your mind open and realize that this is a lifelong learning situation that we're in. I mean, if I had stayed with film, if I'd - I started in black-and-white. So black-and-white TRI-X 400, Natalie: that was my film. You remember. Lynda: Yes, I do. Natalie: Yeah, it's -- I still love that film, but I've moved on now. You've got to always be learning, always be reinventing yourself, as you say, and then the third thing, too, is to realize that the greatest photographers in the world all have business sense.
They all know how to stay in business. They're paid for their photography, and that doesn't come easily. They have to learn that skill, just as they learn a 2:1 ratio in lighting, or how to pose someone. They have to concentrate on learning how to be a business person. Lynda: That's a great point. Lynda: Well, thank you so much for this interview. Natalie: Oh, you're welcome. Lynda: And I appreciate you sharing your work with us, and opening your heart, and your work up to us.
Natalie: Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. Why don't you come back, and we'll sit out on the deck? Lynda: Love it. Natalie: Okay, sounds great.
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