With a new year comes new projects. Today launches the first of our Monsters vs Me Arts & Media Interviews. I love helping out hard working individuals/teams and promote their creative side and assist to get the word out about them. Now, not only is Monsters vs Me.com a photography blog for myself, but I slowly want to turn it into a place where you can discover new talent.

Today’s first interview is with an amazing photographer and friend, Kyle Andrew Skinner. This is where you say, but Jay, you’re a photographer.. why would you promote the competition?

Bad idea?? Some people might say so.. but I don’t. Some wise man out there probably said something like: A man who only thinks of himself will be left by himself and if nobody has claimed that phrase consider it claimed! I don’t see anything wrong with building a community and helping out people who deserve it.

With that being said, if you are in any way related to the Arts & Media field, ie: Designer, Painter, Photographer, Programmer, Film, Band, Artist, etc, and you would like to be featured on this site, send me an email to jay@monstersvsme.com and I will be happy to give you the exposure you deserve.

Ok, enough from me and on to the Interview.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing photographer, Kyle Andrew Skinner. Kyle is an amazing photographer and well educated in the field. I have also posted some of his work.

MVM – When did you become interested in this field of study?

Kyle – There is no easy way for me to answer this question as I’m pretty sure its something that got passed on to me long ago. When I was a child my father had a large amount of expensive film based camera equipment, which as many hobbyists do, he never really used. I used to sneak into his closet when I was really young and take out the camera equipment and assemble and disassemble the pieces pretending I was a spy. Then much later down the road I was very fortunate to be able to do a little bit of modeling, and I became fascinated by the process of creating the image, and it always blew my mind how different (ie. better) the photos looked than I would have thought they’d turn out standing there in person. In my early twenties I bought my first digital camera because it was the thing to do I suppose, and one day I wandered off into the woods to take some pictures of nature. The rest, as they say is history!

MVM – Who or what influenced you to become a photographer?

Kyle – What influenced me to become a photographer was the desire to show the world what I see. I can honestly say that my photographic history is representative of my lack of desire to make the end goal of it all financial. I’ve consistently kept myself in a place where I can take the images that I want to take and that my mind and eyes see, and while it was tough at times not to bend, I stuck to my guns and it now seems to be paying off for me. I however will never put the chase for the almighty dollar ahead of the desire to create something I am personally satisfied with, as I feel that is the moment where you lose the passion. As far as being influenced by individual photographers themselves, I would have to state that the work of Terry Richardson has been tremendously influential, not because of the visual style of the work rather his uncanny ability to allow me to not only view his images, but to feel the EXACT mood he was going for on the set that day.

Additionally, Paul Buceta and Rich Markese were some of the images I saw early on that inspired me to keep exploring. There are people around me that absolutely excel at photography, and they keep me going as well, yourself being one of them (Jay) as well as my cousin Ben Marra and my friend Heather Manning. They are both doing remarkable things and learning at a pace I envy.

MVM – Do you believe in the expression “A picture is worth 1,000 words”? Yes or No, and why.

Kyle – If the camera is in the right hands absolutely. It can be worth many more as well, and sometimes much much less but the strength of an image’s statement is in how accurately it conveys the message that the person that captured it intended. Photographically speaking, a photo you took of your friend at McDonalds after a drunken bar night, with its slight motion blur and high image noise is no less valid a photograph than a carefully constructed photo shoot involving countless assistants and six figure budgets. Its all about capturing a mood and relaying a message.

MVM – Do you think that a person must possess talent to capture raw emotion and expression in a picture?

Kyle – The line between talent and technology is becoming blurred at a rapidly accelerating rate as far as I can see, but that same advancement leads to an incredible opportunity to push the boundaries and discover something new. For two thousand dollars you can go to a camera store and buy yourself enough equipment to call yourself a professional photographer, and create images people will be happy to look at. But you can’t buy the ability to create an image that people can’t stop looking at. So while the technology is advancing rapidly and is ever increasingly more accessible, the talent lies not in the ability to simply produce images, rather in the ability to create them.

MVM – Does the price of a camera matter in ways that it effects the quality of the photo? and in your opinion, how important is owning top-of-the-line equipment in photography?

Kyle – Again, the line is being blurred here, as the difference between high end and low end has become much less distinct in the last five years. I currently shoot with a Canon 5D MK II and its a remarkable full-frame low light camera for shooting the way I shoot. But the 7D which is cheaper than it, has caught up in the low light department, and the 1D MK IV which is the next step up has surpassed it. But they all serve different purposes. When people come to me asking for equipment advice I tell them first to weigh the pros and cons of either Nikon or Canon, settle on one then spend a small amount on your first camera body and good money on lenses, mainly the L series lenses for Canon. The lenses can be transported camera to camera as the bodies evolve.

Now all that said, you can take remarkable photos with an old Polaroid camera. Anyone that uses their equipment as an excuse doesn’t have the right mind set for photography as far as I’m concerned. And that’s coming from a certified equipment junkie.

MVM – What makes a good photographer?

Kyle – There are a million different answers to this question that are probably all valid. Knowledge of equipment, understanding of light, social skills, patience, tenacity, technical ability, open-mindedness. Having a beard, wearing funny hats and smoking cigarettes usually helps too. And Voyeurism, was it Helmut Newton that said that? Because I definitely have that trait haha. There are so many little things that play a role and all great photographers contain some wonderful combination of most if not all of them.
But if you really think about, at least when I really think about it the one thing that every great photographer has in common is a strong desire to affect people that view their work. To prompt them for some sort of a reaction. And to do that you have to be extremely in tune with the world around you, or at the very least how you see it. If your desire to create something is strong enough, you will eventually figure out how to do it.

MVM – Where did all of your photography training come from?

Kyle – I am self taught. I bought my first DSLR used online and just started reading as much as I could wherever I could read it. I flipped through a couple of good books along the way as well, but the truth is that the training came from taking the pictures themselves. Every frame I’ve snapped has taught me something new about composition, light, etc. That said, I’m not at all opposed to taking more formal training one day to continue learning. If it makes me better I am all for it.

MVM – In you eyes, is it important to keep up to date with new technology in the photography industry and if so, where do you get your information from?

Kyle – Is it important? No, it isn’t. What is important is being happy with the images that you are creating. Is it interesting? Its absolutely fascinating to watch the rate at which the technology in this industry is advancing. Its remarkable really. I read about all the latest equipment on the tech review sites and in my favourite photography magazine Digital Photo Pro, which is a tremendously well put together magazine.

MVM – How do you decide on locations & subjects?

Kyle – I am fortunate to be in a position where I am constantly surrounded by beautiful people, and I owe so many thanks to many many close friends for helping me develop my style over the years. People have been incredibly patient with and supportive of me. If its not a situation in which I need to hire talent, I shoot someone I know who I think would be great. I absolutely love working with the inexperienced because the reward is so much higher when they see the results. I’ve always felt that if I can make someone who is inexperienced with no future modeling goals look amazing, I should do very well with those who have it as their focus. Therefore its been an incredible part of my learning curve, an irreplaceable decision.

Location scouting is something I’ve subconsciously been doing all my life. More often than not my photos seem to gravitate towards the grittier side of things, at least location wise and I think its because I’ve long been fascinated by it. When I was twenty or twenty-one years old I used to drive around Hamilton late at night with very mood music playing. Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy, The Dust Brothers musical score from the movie Fight Club and I started to build a mental index of all the fascinating spots this city has to offer. Just last summer I was able to shoot at a location that I knew I’d first ear-marked when I couldn’t have been older than twenty. I’ve always looked at locations as if I should or should not, or could or could not stage a scene there. So when I find a spot I like, I start to build a mental image of what would occur there. Then with any luck I find the person(s) who can do that scene justice.

MVM – Where can people see your work online?

Kyle – Your best bet is to visit my website at http://www.kyleandrew.com. I update my photo albums on Facebook more frequently than I do my website, so if you would like to stay more abreast of my latest work, send me a friend request http://www.facebook.com/kyle.andrew.skinner. Also, follow me on Twitter @kyleandrewphoto as I frequently post never before seen edits and live behind the scenes shots from the various photo shoots that I do.

MVM – If you could give advice for somebody starting out in photography, what would it be?

Kyle – Don’t buy your equipment at a big box electronics retailer. Buy it at a proper camera store. Those people live and breath imagery and you’ll need their energy and knowledge to get past the early learning frustration.

Kyle is a great photographer with a great story. Below are some photos that Kyle has taken and please check out his websites to see the rest of his work.