For the Eleanour Rigby’s blog, Hello Sunshine.
Hello Sunshine: When did the photography craze start?
Michael Ashley Currin: I got my first digital camera for my gap year in 2008. I bought a better compact camera at the end of 2009, which gave me decent live band shots. I did my first paid event in February 2010, which was a 40th party. By March 2010 I was ready to get a DSLR, for professional quality in low light gig venues. By June, I was doing my first fashion shoot with friends and taking backstage photos of Deep Purple for Big Concerts. I went to at least one concert a week throughout 2010.
HS: Being self-taught do you feel that it has given you an advantage above other photographers, who have studied photography?
MAC: I am the sort of person with the curiosity and determination to teach myself so it works well for me. I guess I was able to develop my own technique and style, by absorbing from a wide variety of sources (books, magazines, online lessons, forums, people, manuals), than having a main source such as a photography school. I still think that I have learnt the most through experience though.
HS: Analogue or Digital?
MAC: Digital for sure. It seems people who are at least five years older than me started on film cameras, since digital SLR cameras were not good quality when they came out around the year 2000.
RR: What make of camera do you prefer to use?
MAC: A Nikon D90.
HS: What camera would you recommend to the amateur photographer?
MAC: Nikon and Canon are said to have equal quality but Canon is usually less expensive. The Canon 1000d or Nikon D3100 are entry-level DSLRs for those on a budget, but you might like to get 500d or D5000 if you plan to get serious into it and be hired. A budget lens like the 50mm f/1.8 will give good results portraits in the day and dark stages.
RR: How well do you know your camera?
MAC: I know it very well. I’ve set up the custom menu for quick access to certain functions (like flash settings, ISO settings and timer delay). I know my camera’s strengths and weaknesses in light and dark situations with each of my four lenses. I know how it perceives colour, brightness and contrast different to the eye and how to correct for this such as using white balance, exposure value (EV) compensation and exposure metering settings.
HS: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
MAC: I am still seeing the potential for earning from events, band shoots, live gigs and model shoots. I might specialise in one of those but I would always be happy to do the others as well. I don’t plan to rely on photography as a main income though, I would rather have job in marketing (which I am studying for at UCT), so I can new afford photographic equipment and to travel.
HS: Do you think you can have an impact on someone through your photography?
MAC: Yes I do. I often change the perceptions of someone, often unintentionally. I like to show a person that I meet, the beauty and simplicity in taking a photo of something too small obscure to be noticed by most people, especially in black and white with a unique angle and blurred background.
I sometimes take a photo with someone else’s camera to figure it out and help them. I show them pictures I take with it, it usually inspires them and I get to show them that technique and creativity is more important than camera quality. After talking to me and seeing my photos of whatever event I am at, I have recently had a few people tell me that they want to take up a photography and get a good camera, because of me.
HS: Do you think Cape Town is the spot for an upcoming photographer to grow or would you say the place doesn’t really matter, but it’s more what you do in the place?
MAC: With regard to bands, Cape Town is great with a huge variety of genres and levels of fame here and unlike Joburg the venues here aren’t as far to drive to. Cape Town is amazing for natural landscapes, the sea and urban decay. There are plenty of models, studios, events, promotions businesses, photography schools… Cape Town is amazing but make sure you take your camera overseas or at least on a roadtrip or somewhere away from the city where you can find something unusual to develop your skills.
HS: What do you have to say to the future photographers out there?
MAC: One of the books I read says that there is always room in the world or in your area for one more photographer. Another book says “Don’t compete unless you have a competitive advantage” – in other words, you can be successful if you can find what makes your service unique, whether it is your style of photos, or how you deal with people and get them to look and feel relaxed in photos. I had one band member after their set, that he liked how I took photos of them, that I wasn’t afraid to get up close to them while they were on stage.
Be accepting of repetitive or what seems like silly questions from those that you meet. Most people are surprised when they see the view through an SLR viewfinder or you answer them with how much it cost. They might assume you are professional or studied photography, just because your photos look better than the average person’s. It is fun to see reactions of people when I explain that my flash works wirelessly, or when I show them is has a zoom inside to make the light go further.
HS: And a random one, just for fun. Your ideal night out would be?
MAC: My ideal night out happens quite often actually. I go to a club to see a band I know, perform with bands I haven’t heard of who often sound great. I talk to friends who are there. I meet many new people in the crowd who want to be in photos and are curious about what I do. I climb on the edge of stage to get dramatic photos. I chat to the bands to tell them who I am and that I will post a link to the photos on their Facebook page. Some nights, bands come up to me to find out who I am and where they can see my photos. Sometimes they give me a CD or offer to put me on the guestlist next time.