MEET JOHN DECKER
John and I go back 40+ years and though I don’t see him much of him (because he’s on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast) the friendship is always there. I was thrilled to reconnect recently while he was passing through L.A. and happy to share this interview and his work!
John is best known for his richly evocative photographs of people and places. Before turning to photography and filmmaking he studied to be a painter. His unique style has grown from his love for literature, cinema, and fine arts. For the past two decades he has woven a career of portraiture, editorial, fine art, and film directing. www.johndeckerstudio.com
John, thank you for your time and sharing with us… please tell us a little bit about yourself and your photography.
Above all I wanted to be a painter but realized in college that film and photography came natural to me. Other than working at a hospital for a year right out of college as a surgery photographer I’ve been self employed for my entire 29 year career. In that time span I’ve woven a career that included advertising, editorial, events, portraits, fine art, and corporate work. I feel like I’ve tried my hand at practically every facet and genre of photography and video which in hindsight is both good and bad. It was good in that I love new experiences and bad in that I never wanted to be a generalist.
Do you use your mobile when you are traveling VERY light? What are your favorite photography apps?
I use my mobile as a sketchbook. I’m forever taking pictures of anything that moves me. I don’t use any apps other than my iPhone camera.
When you want higher resolution than your phone, what is your go-to gear when traveling?
For personal work I try to record on film. For years I shot with a Leica M6 and black and white film but recently switched to a medium format Mamiya rangefinder as well as a Hasselblad. I also prefer color for the first time for it’s sensual, dream-like quality.
Any favorite lens? Bags, specific tools, memory cards, hard-drives or accessories?
For portraiture I love the Hasselblad 80mm. It’s just a standard focal length lens but it allows me to get closer to my subject and the results feel more intimate than a portrait lens. For landscape I enjoy the 65mm on my Mamiya. For bags, I like the Tank camera bags and for film, Kodak Portra400.
Regarding any photography gadgets that you own, are there somethings that you wish you hadn’t bought? Are there gadgets that you love that you would recommend to others?
I’m not a gadget hound per say. I use a Sekonic light meter L758D and manual film cameras. I also have a carbon Gitzo tripod that was worth every penny.
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What type of editing software do you like to use and what do you like about it? Explain your work flow.
For film it’s simple. My film gets hand delivered to my lab in New York (The small darkroom + Picture house.) The film is processed and scanned low res for reference. If I like an image I have them scan high res and/or drum scan. For my commercial work in digi I shoot in raw, process in PS. Very basic.
If it’s a job with a lot of images I will often have my assistant process in Lightroom and I will make my selects to present to the client. I may be one of the only photographers I know who doesn’t enjoy working off of a screen. For me the enjoyment is found in the act of photographing with the exception of printing in a darkroom, which I love.
Are there any unique challenges and hazards when it comes to your gear? For instance, keeping your batteries charged in remote locations or preventing theft and damage. Any suggestions for fellow travelers?
I always recommend estimating how many batteries you think you’ll need and double it. When having to fly, a good hard shell Pelican case works great if you absolutely need to check in your bag. Whenever possible I keep my camera and lenses with me.
Are there any specific travel photographers that inspire you? There are too many to list and that list evolves constantly but to name just a few I would have to say Anton Corbijn, Luighi Ghirri, and Mona Kuhn.
Where are your favorite travel destinations to-date for your photography? Please share a favorite photo.
This year, when work slowed down with the pandemic I decided to go on the road for three weeks and travel around the country to photograph the American landscape. I stayed out of a van to play it safe and avoid people. I brought my Mamiya rangefinder and a single lens. This spartan approach brought me back to why I fell in love with photography in the first place. I travelled roughly 7 thousand miles with no preconceived agenda other than to chase light and atmosphere. It was a dream come true against the backdrop of one of the most difficult times in my professional career. I always say that I love stories that hold abstractions and extreme contrasts. This had both.
Please share your website and the best way to contact you. www.johndeckerstudio.com