Photographer Spotlight Jeffery Salter
Meet Jeffery Salter
Growing up, every three years or so Jeffery and his family would move to another city. His father was an Army engineer and was required to live on many military bases nationally and international, which included France and Germany. So when asked where he’s from… his response is Texas since that was his father’s last duty station. Jeffery currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife, their two kids, two cats and five chickens (all hens). When he is not working on advertising commissions or editorial projects, he can be found riding his motorcycle, exploring the Florida Keys, or Everglades.
Jeffery, what ignited your passion for photography? When and how did it start?
Well, I always liked to draw and was drawn to art as a kid, but I discovered photography by accident when I was 15—I enrolled into a graphic design course that turned out to be a photography class. One of the benefits of being an “Army Brat” was free access to the photography darkrooms that the soldiers used. My high school photography instructor, James Cooper, handed me a Speed Graphic 4X5, some old copies of Popular Photography, and a series of books called The Masters of Contemporary Photography. I was hooked from that day on. My early exposure to many different cultures as a youth, having to adapt, make new friends at an early age, could be seen as being stressful, and it was. Those experiences taught me to be flexible and view the world through the lens of what’s possible as well as giving me a diverse visual arsenal to draw from everyday.
In which ways do you see your work evolving in the next 5 – 10 years from now?
I have accepted and fully embrace that my skills and strengths are on the visual path. Everyday that I wake up, it’s always the thought, “Begin with the end in mind” as a mantra. We are all works in progress. Professionally I want to continue building a body of work that appeals to national and international clients I would like to cultivate. Personally I hope my work will be seen as being honest, evocative and complex multi layered creations with a touch of whimsy.
What do you enjoy photographing outside of your work related projects?
The basis of my personal work involves creating images which reflect and questions what is going on inside my mind. The images can be elaborate yet accessible constructions involving elements of classic still life paintings combined with a scene of modernity. I enjoy this challenge of bringing images envisioned in my mind that are organic and not seeded by some visual trend that showcases a photographer’s tools or whiz bang. That whiz bang can be fun and certainly eye catching, but for my personal growth as an image maker I want to create images which are less sugar and more substance. I draw inspiration from the surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch who’s triptych painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is a master work. Although I haven’t achieved work with such depth, it’s important to realize that the interior landscape of the psyche or soul can provide a vast source of subjects and storylines which can be reflected in a photograph. Landscape photography is another way I free my mind. The ritual of preparing your cameras, loading the backpack, walking through the woods and finally seeing the perfect spot to set up your tripod to capture what catches your eye is immensely pleasurable. The study of looking deeply into the landscape of nature informs the way I approach portraiture and the capture of a portrait.
Out of the wide variety of lenses on the market, what’s your favorite one to use?
When Using a medium format digital camera the Schneider Kreuznach 55mm f/2.8 LS is the lens I use to photograph an environmental portrait. Recently I have discovered the buttery and wonderful roll off of focus that the Blue ring 150mm f/2.8 LS produces when used wide open. For landscape photography on a technical camera I like the crispness and sharpness of the Rodenstock/Alpa HR Alpagon 40mm.
Jeffery you spoke about lighting and how it adds to the overall WOW factor of your work. Could you elaborate more about how lighting plays a major role in telling the story of your image? What are your favorite lighting techniques?
There is no one lighting technique. Each assignment is unique and needs a custom approach. Light is a character in a visual story. It can create emotion or a sense of mystery by what it conceals or reveals. When I create a set-up either a close-up tight or loose environmental portrait, my approach is to build up the light and give each light specific purpose for being. Never to simply have an “f/8 and be there” feel unless that style compliments or works with the subject. I will also add it’s more about making the light your own, by cutting it with a gobos, nets, flags, feathering the modifier or simply bouncing it off a flat. Even creating a window light look takes more then simply putting up a soft box. I like to observe the natural light and different effects it produces. Lets say when I’m at my local coffee shop, which has the most beautiful light. I see the sun bouncing off several objects, a building across the street, a parked car, etc, before coming through the window to light up someone enjoying a morning Latte. This practice helps build my lighting vocabulary. It’s funny because in my camera bag I carry a small index card with the words, Foreground/background, Wide/medium/tight and ambient/strobe light written on it. That flash card serves as a simple reminder to always be present and aware of what’s in front of you. When we scout a location for a commercial shoot, once the background has been decided we always look at the lighting potential to ascertain what amount and type of lighting equipment is needed to execute the clients vision.
You have quite the reputation for over delivering quality work! (i.e. your Sports Illustrated cover featuring Mario Balotelli) What’s your inspiration and how do you manage to consistently create and deliver the WOW factor?
Thank you! What keeps me creating? Not having the word “No” in my mind when I’m photographing, rather seeking to see what is possible, rather then dwelling too long in a sea of what isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you have an advertising comp in hand or are creating a personal photograph, having a positive perspective is a key aspect of producing a great image. I have fully embraced and accepted the fact that I’m visual, images resonate with me and imprint my thoughts. When I don’t have a camera in hand, I look at light, tones, color, textures, shapes and the overall atmosphere of what is in front of me. Everywhere I go, walking on a beach, visiting a museum or sitting in a garden, I gather visual clues such as how the quality and quantity of light help invoke the mood of a scene. My approach to doing portraits of athletes or sports stars is to see them as people first and not just helmeted wearing gladiators in a stadium. I seek to capture that spark which reflects what makes them great. I believe we all have that spark of passion. One of the reasons I believe advertising and commercial clients commission me is for the ability of putting a diverse range of subjects at ease. Recent assignments have ranged from a grandmother who is living out her golden years, to a top sports figure with a little bit of time, or a teenage art curator with eclectic tastes.
If you could have given yourself any advice when you first launched your career in photography, what would it be?
Travel and see. Have a bigger vision for yourself and always do more than just enough. Treasure your network. Value each and everyone you meet. Try to keep an open mind and a heart willing to feel.
Why Capture Integration? What made you select us as a partner?
The C.I. team has a vast depth of digital photography knowledge and a willingness to share it. They are honest folks and genuinely care about my image making and visual goals. Besides making sure you have the best gear, they want you to be successful in creating the best work you can. On my last two shoots in Atlanta, Cam Williams was vital in helping me in all aspects of the production from pre-visualization, logistics, resourceful lighting equipment suggestions as well as digital capture and management on set. High fives all around!
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