Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the photos.
All images (c) Jason Doiy; republished by Osmosis Online with permission
I first met Bay Area-based Jason Doiy in the early 2000s, at a media job in which I was learning the Web game and he was already a seasoned professional photographer. Even in our somewhat limited interactions, I was impressed with his across-the-board knowledge, his ability to explain principles of photography to know-nothings like me, and, most of all, a really keen eye for great shots that made our news publication stand out from competitors.
For today’s interview, Jason shared a selection of street photography. We chatted about the life of a working photographer, being prepared for an opportunity to snap that magical image, and how a with his experience takes care of wedding photos . . . when the wedding’s his own.
Osmosis Online:About this set of photos — was this imagined as a series when taking them, or did you find the commonality later in the process?
Jason Doiy: These weren’t imagined as a series per se, but they share a commonality in that they influenced my later work. A lot of it is in experimenting with different things and then seeing what works and then going with it. I’ve always loved street photography– making great photos on any given day in the heart the city. Nothing is better to me than capturing some quirky detail or catching a fleeting moment. Often we only see a thing in a particular way and that is what I really love about photography; it gives me an opportunity to look at the world differently. Things happen so quickly on the street that often you don’t have time to do much experimenting, but yet it can be very rewarding. (See Lee Friedlander or Henri Carier Bresson)
OO:Building on “in pursuit of of the next magic photo: — is that something you can prepare for or manufacture in any way, or is it as much kismet as it is skill?
Doiy:You can definitely prepare and craft stunning images; however, there is always something magical about really great photographs. Certainly fundamentals play a role like lighting, aperture, focal length and so on, but there is an element of luck to it. When people say you have a great eye it isn’t so much about seeing as it is about thinking, knowing your craft and really zeroing in on what you want to say.
OO:back when we worked together (damn that was a long time ago), I was always impressed by your versatility — chasing supervisors one day, photo shoots with attorneys the next, and even in-office product shoots once or twice that I recall. How important do you think such versatility is to a career photographer? And how might you advise an aspiring photographer to cultivate it?
Doiy:I am firm believer in shooting as much as you can as often as you can. There are little microcosms of photography and often photographers get locked into shooting something one way and it can become cliche. I believe being versatile is something very valuable to a working photographer. I am probably unique in that I really like doing anything that comes along and enjoy experimenting with different ways to shoot pictures. That said though, photographers need to be very uniquely specialized as well. While you should know as much as you can about the craft, your portfolio should be narrowly focused on your personal vision, because ultimately that’s what people want to see.
OO:The famous/infamous Chris Daly photo made such a splash; I recall an organization using it for pamphlets without rights or giving you proper credit. That was, what, 2001? With the insane proliferation of the Internet, such copyright issues are tougher than ever. How does a one-man shop protect itself?
Doiy:That’s a really challenging question. Any image a photographer values should be registered with the copyright office. But ultimately there are only so many things you can do to prevent people from misusing your work. I think it becomes more of a personal question as in how much do you want to try to restrict access and the trouble with that is at the same time you’re limiting exposure and access to your work. Photographers should be more concerned with getting the right people to look at your work and letting those connections have access to it, because there are people willing to pay for good photography.
OO:The photos in this gallery are definitely of an artistic bent — how does your approach or mind frame change from something like the photos here versus a news assignment?
Doiy:I like to think there is a little art photographer in every photojournalist. Being a photojournalist or an art photographer is both different and the same. Both are trying to say something and strive for clear communication of ideas. If I am on a news assignment it really depends on what the story is about. I am limited by the structure of the story and then by the ethics of the profession. I can’t composite images or radically alter colors. In the end though, both are trying to communicate ideas and that’s what is ultimately important.
OO:What are a couple things about being a working photographer that might surprise the industry outsider? Things that people like myself might not even think about that are just part of your day-to-day routine?
Doiy:There are so many things, but here are a few I can think of: lugging around your camera every day. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Being camera-ready, proper ISO/settings pre-set beforehand, details, details. Being 100 percent all the time. People in this business don’t have patience for mistakes and you rarely get a second chance. Probably the biggest thing is knowing that there are a tremendous number of barriers to your success and to be open to change and new ideas. Constantly discover and learn about not only photography, but also the business of photography.
OO:You were recently married — (Congrats! by the way!!). Was it hard for you to figure out how your wedding was going to be photographed, since obviously you can’t take the pics yourself?
Doiy:Actually I did shoot a few photos myself, at the reception and at the church. I think it might have been a little daunting for the photographer that I hired to shoot my wedding, but ultimately, I tried to keep out of her hair. We just needed basics covered and every image didn’t have to be a masterpiece. Speaking of which, there is a lot of really bad wedding photography out there. Although that might be the subject of a another discussion.