Tal Paz-Fridman is a photographer specializing in creative + documentary photography. To paraphrase the description of the great American photographer Sam Abell, my style of photography is documentary in the sense that I record the world as it is, however, it has transcendent qualities, that start at the documentary level, yet open to interpretation on an aesthetic level as well.
Tal is inspired by the natural world and especially by the seas and oceans. All his work is printed by a Hahnemühle Certified Studio using state-of-the-art equipment, the latest print & colour-management processes and on the finest professional photographic & fine arts papers, specifically the Hahnemühle Digital FineArt Photo Rag family of papers
Your first adventures with the camera happened at a young age, was there a particular moment that you remember as being instrumental in your journey towards becoming a photographer?
It was during one of the many weekends that I spent on the Kibbutz at my grandmother's house, I was in my early teens, maybe 13 years old or so, that same weekend one of my older cousins was also there. As it happened he was taking a course in photography and had the patience and generosity of spirit to share his knowledge with me, forming the foundations of what would first become a hobby, before later developing into a passion that has stayed with me since.
Is there a driving factor that inspires you in your work?
I am inspired by the natural world in which we live, especially by the seas and oceans. I have also found that my work allows me to transform my emotions into images and this to is an important factor of my work.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today?
The biggest evolution in my work has been the moving away from what could be described as documentary photography, the type of photographic work seen in magazines like National Geographic Magazine, which has a very hands-off approach when it comes to editing and post processing and manipulation, to my current way of working where I often heavily edit an image to bring about the desired creative result. However, I still do not crop images or change the contents.
You have had an eventful life which has led to you living in numerous countries, how do you feel this has impacted your work?
My world view has been formed by culmination of many events, from the death of my father at a young age, to experiencing life in numerous countries outside my homeland. As a result, my experiences have taught me to view things differently to many others.
I believe that Planet Earth is not just for the benefit of mankind, but that all living creatures have the right to exist in harmony, with freedom and liberty at the core and I do my best to reflect the beauty that exists all around us in our world.
Are there particular photographers that have influenced you?
The result of having never followed the normal educational route of learning photography, is that I am in a constant state of discovery, as I learn more about photography I also find so many brilliant photographers along the way.
Magazines such as National Geographic were a great source of inspiration as they introduced me to the work of William Albert Allard, Jim Richardson, Sam Abell and Jim Richardson. All great photographers.
Of course there is the masters such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. But it is a list that keeps evolving and names such as Don McCullin, Harry Callahan and Micha Bar-Am are others who deserve a mention.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?
Being a successful photographer / creative person who is working towards establishing an independent career, requires a tremendous amount of commitment and personal sacrifice. Like many other creative individuals everyday becomes a balancing act of family, work, photography and the self. It can be a tornado of everchanging priorities and tasks, as much about being proactive as it reactive to the challenges that life throws at you on a day to day basis. I work hard to do my absolute best in all areas of my life, so when it comes to balancing everything, I achieve this by being very efficient in my tasks - at work, at home and with my art - finding the best way of doing them.
Could you describe the process behind your work? How do you get from concept to execution?
If I was to label my work, it may best be described as specializing in Creative + Documentary photography. To paraphrase the description of one of my favorite photographers, Sam Abell, my style of photography is documentary in the sense that I record the world around me. However, I feel my best work has transcendent qualities, starting at the documentary level yet open to interpretation on an aesthetic level. But what does that mean in real terms? Everything starts with the photo and composition is the Queen.
The legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was a proponent of “The Decisive Moment”. His book 'Images à la Sauvette' contains a preface that references a quote from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz: "Il n'y a rien dans ce monde qui n'ait un moment decisif", or to translate it into English, "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment". Cartier-Bresson applied this to his photographic work, preferring to use the viewfinder to compose his photographs rather than in the dark room. Nearly all his photographs were completely free of any cropping or other darkroom manipulation.
Cartier-Bresson also said “I am after the one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigor and richness, and whose content so radiates outwards from it, that this single picture is a whole story in itself”
In that regard, I always look to document the world around me and capture the decisive moment which holds the essence of the image. I never crop the image, change the perspective or move things around. After I have settled on the composition, the “creative” aspect comes into play, and at this point the work of Ansel Adams comes into play.
Viewed by many as one of the great masters of landscape and nature photography, Ansel Adams is recognised for his darkroom craftsmanship and published several books on the subject.
Ansel Adams inspiration has given me two things - my love of the natural environment and the use of a darkroom. Albeit, in my case, it’s a digital one. Loading the photo into my post processing flow, I try to sculpt the final image from the original. Another of my favourite photographers, Sam Abell is quoted as saying “My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.”
I try to document the world as it is, with emphasis on composition, light and timing. From there I allow myself to shape the final image in any way I feel helps to tell the story. I do not restrict myself to a specific style, which allows me to move between Colour and Black & White, which is very much dependent on the situation, feeling or mood I have at the post processing stage. This flexibility also exists in the way I post process - sometimes I leave the image exactly as I shot it, other times it is a gentle touch with very little intervention, and at times I might add or change colours which change the image completely.
You mentioned Colour versus Black and White in your work. Could you tell us a little bit about that and whether you have a preference?
Although many of my favourite photographers worked predominantly in Black and White, I love both. It would be great to master one of the disciplines but I am torn as they offer different elements, elements which can fit perfectly with a specific image and as a result I apply both depending on the image.
Are there particular images of which are you most proud?
The desire for perfection can leave you with mixed feelings and wanting more from your work. Which gives rise to the inner critic, viewing your own work as good, but maybe not good enough. After the event you can see where you could make improvements or tweak things. But even still I do have my favourites
I have a particular fondness for one work, that is mainly due to the nature of the work and the questions it raises. It is a piece called "Four Balloons and Another One". It can be viewed as ominous and yet, I personally find an element of humour within it.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring photographer?
Make your decision and commit to it. Understand that in the beginning everything is novel in nature and can provide a learning experience. Over time this learning curve will flatten out as your knowledge increases. So in simplistic terms, start as fast as you can and slowly increase your pace. Keep fanning the flames of your passion. It is a journey of discovery.
It is also important to remember, as with almost every craft, that some people are born with natural talent. I believe that anyone, regardless of their ability in the beginning, can improve their skills and become a successful photographer if they are willing to follow the process described above.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
For most creative individuals trying to find a balance between their creativity and making a living can be difficult. Luckily, my career and creativity, provide a platform from which I can support my family, which removes the immediate pressure of turning my work in money, this gives me the luxury of being able to focus on my craft. The path to becoming a full time photographer can be a long and arduous one, whether here in Israel or indeed anywhere around the world.
The technological advances over the last twenty years has given us better access to affordable camera equipment but people still need to apply themselves, hone their skills and develop their knowledge. As with most things in life, talent will bring you a certain distance down the road to success, to go beyond that point requires dedication and hard work. If you want to succeed, you need to make a continuous commitment to your work.