Eli Reed

I had the pleasure of meeting renowned photojournalist Eli Reed while teaching at the Maui Photo Festival. Eli is a Magnum Agency photographer and Olympus Visionary and has photographed everywhere from war zones to the White House. Photofocus is proud to have Eli Reed as our October interview subject.

1. Scott Bourne: Please tell me how and when you got into Photoshop.

ELI REED: I first got involved with Photoshop relatively late. I am fortunate enough to have my agency Magnum Photos or an assistant work on my images at the appropriate time. Recently I have come to realize that I have to enter the fray because my impatience in wanting the photographs to be realized in the manner of my choosing means I have to do it myself.

2. Scott Bourne: What is your favorite photographic location or subject?

ELI REED: My favorite photographic location is where the light is interesting to me. That pretty much is everywhere. I always have a camera with me all the time because I love shooting all the time.

3. Scott Bourne: Can you recall the first photograph you made that caused you to think WOW – that’s a good shot and if so, what was it?

ELI REED: The first photograph I remember that excited me was of a hot dog vender working out of a cart in downtown Newark, New Jersey. He was smoking a cigarette and gazing into the distance with a thoughtful expression on his face. It was the first photograph that I ever made of someone’s interior world.

4. Scott Bourne: Do you have any formal training in photography, Photoshop or a related field and do you think that’s important for aspiring serious photographers?

ELI REED: I am self taught but I had a wonderful mentor, Donald Greenhaus, who pointed me in the right direction I should go in. I believe that the more formal education you can receive, the better it will be for you if you have good teachers.

5. Scott Bourne: Are you more of a technical or an artistic person?

ELI REED: I am definitely more of an artistic person and have always been that way.

6. Scott Bourne: Who has inspired or influenced your work?

ELI REED: I have been inspired by many of the great artists in history such as Leonardo DaVinci, Monet, Rembrandt, etc. I’ve also been inspired by a number of photographers such as W. Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks, Ernst Haas, William Allard, Leonard Freed, Henri Cartier Bresson, and Alex Webb. These are just a few of the photographers who have influenced me in color and black and white photography.

7. Scott Bourne: What has been the most interesting or surprising thing to you about how people react to photography?

ELI REED: Many people believe that it is so easy that anyone can do it because of the ease of making images with modern day cameras and have no understanding about how difficult it is to make meaningful images.

8. Scott Bourne: How would you describe your style of photography?

ELI REED: I search for interesting images that intrigue, surprise, or inspire me in some way or another. I try to keep myself from photographically interfering with the content of the image. I, like anyone, will often fail but it just makes me work harder to make images that are interesting to me.

9. Scott Bourne: How do you decide what to photograph?

ELI REED: I basically try and get near the photograph so that it can take me.

10. Scott Bourne: Of your many projects, which is your favorite and why?

ELI REED: My favorite project is and will always be my next project. Some projects are short in duration and others take years to complete but I am always looking toward possible ones for the future.

11. Scott Bourne: Is there any photographic discipline that you wish you knew more about?

ELI REED: More and more, I find myself looking for the time to learn and master Aperture and Photoshop in order to have more control of my images. I also wish I could have gotten some experience with an 8X10 inch camera.

12. Scott Bourne: After all these years as a photographer/teacher and author, do you ever find it hard to remain passionate about your work?

ELI REED: I will always be passionate about making interesting photographs. I live for that always.

13. Scott Bourne: Everyone will ask me why I didn’t ask this question if I don’t – so here goes – What cameras/lenses do you use and why?

ELI REED: I mostly use Olympus DSLR cameras and lenses because I prefer the color resolution of the lenses along with a number of other aspects that I like including the speed of the lenses which are often smaller then what you would expect. I have used Olympus cameras since covering Central America and Beirut in the eighties. I use the Olympus E-3, E-30, EP-1 (I always have this new camera with me at all times now because of its size and what it does) with 14-42mm, 12-60mm F2.8/4, 7-14mm F4, 14-35mm F2, 100mm F2, 35-100mm F2, 150mm F2, and 50-200mm F2.8/3.5.

14. Scott Bourne: What’s the biggest mistake you made when you first started out as a photographer?

ELI REED: I wished I had jumped into photography earlier but I would have had difficulty in getting any kind of useful camera to work with. I didn’t have any money and my father didn’t either but I believed somewhere deep inside I should have found a way. Perhaps that is why I often feel that I am still trying to catch up with myself.

15. Scott Bourne: Would you like to give any final words of advice to photographers who want to improve their photography?

ELI REED: Please stop talking about it and start shooting it until you run out of space either on your card or analog film. It is easy to try and talk a photo into existence and it won’t be very good. I have watched so many beginning photographers try and do that only to fail because they never made the commitment to fully work at the craft of making photographs that mean something. Without the commitment – there is the zero of the perfectly boring image boring the hell out you. If you start shooting for the enjoyment of exploring the light with your camera, you are already ahead.

You can find out more about Eli here. Thanks Eli for agreeing to be part of the Photofocus interview.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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