rfotofolio is pleased to feature the work of Mitchell Hartman.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello my name is Mitchell Hartman, I am a photo-based artist who lives in NYC.
How did you get started photography?
I actually got started in photography after college. I had played with photography in school when I went to School of Visual Design, but I was in the illustration/ cartooning department, and as a first year student had to take a photography class. It was once I was out of college and working in the “art” field that I started taking pictures.
My first job out of school was working at a retouching studio. I am older, so this was before Photoshop, when you had to work on prints or negatives to do retouching. I started out as an apprentice, and one of the retouchers at the studio asked me if I would be interested in learning photography. He had been a studio photographer in a former profession and he was willing to teach a youngster like myself. He also introduced me to four other gentlemen that did photography as a living and we met up every Saturday afternoon ( on what was known as “Camera Row” in NYC) for about four years where they trained me by giving me different assignments, sharing equipment with me, and really tearing my work apart to train me, every week. I was very lucky, and appreciate what they did and try to be the same way in my life helping others develop their skills.
Did your family and childhood affect your decision to become an artist?
There was always Art around in my family life. My father was an amateur painter and sculptor and later on did photography. He and I had a great relationship and went out shooting together. Later on when I had my studio he came along as my assistant whenever he could. My uncle, my father’s twin was a cartoonist, selling them on the street when he wasn’t playing chess for a living.
Which photographers and other artist work do you admire? Influenced you?
I admire so many people. And even though I relate to painters more than photographers, there’s a lot of work I love
I am a surrealist/cubist with my own work so I would have to say as far as Artists, the Dada movement artists, cubists, and surrealists, but that doesn’t discount my love for pop art.
As far as Photographers, besides the “Masters”, i.e., Adams through Weston, I would have to bow out and say there are just too many people to list here when asked that question. I love photographers that challenge the audience, that create works that make you stop, think and ask what are these people trying to do and say. Some of my first influences would be Jerry Ulesmann, Duane Michaels, as well as Henri Cartier Bresson, though I studied the zone system with luminaries such as Fred Picker, and Donald Perry.
I was also fortunate enough to hang out with the people at Popular Photography in the seventies, people like Bob Schalberg, Norman Rothchild, and got introduced to Gordon Parks and Dorothea Keheya.
In your mind what makes a great photograph?
I’m a technician, a geek, so when I get asked about this it’s not only about the content of the photograph, it’s what the photographer is bringing into that image that makes me think or shows me something that I wouldn’t normally see.
With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph, how do you view the world of art and photography?
Well like most people, I initially see work on the internet. But I am lucky I live in NYC, I get to see prints in galleries and museums.
But if you are asking how I view the current state of Photography, like most Art nowadays there is no one direction, there is no real “isms” at the forefront of Art. I see a lot of people pushing the boundaries of Photography trying to find their voice. Most that I see is successful, not everyone sees the world the same way. Some see a rose when they look at it as just a red flower, some see what it symbolizes, and then some see and feel something totally different. Art is like that, everyone finds their voice, their own way of seeing and try to convey that to the public.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
Being a photo-based artist, one of the initial challenges has been acceptance. Not everyone in the Photography field accepts pictures that have been altered. With the popularity of Photoshop this is changing, but I find it curious that after 150 years people still have a hard time accepting something that isn’t directly out of a camera, when in all actuality every image is altered reality.
How do you overcome a creative block?
Creative blocks, hmmm, I have several way to deal with them. Usually I just get my camera out and simply take a walk or get in the subway, and just start taking pictures, they might not be “keepers” or anything in general but once I start getting myself out and taking pictures the creativity eventually starts. It might take a period of time, but just getting out and shooting starts something.
Then again, I am a freelance retoucher by trade. I work with a lot of different very creative people, so I see a lot of ideas and see wonderful photography. Sometimes, something there sparks my creativity and I say, wow, I can take that and expand on that my own way.
What subjects were you first drawn to?
Living in NYC, everything here draws me to photograph it, so it would be mostly buildings and people.
And how do you go about planning a shoot?
I have several different ways I work, sometimes the image are pre-planned, sometimes they come to me as I’m walking around and see something that sparks an image, kinda a spur of the moment thing. Take my “The Ballplayer” image as an example. I was in Brighton Beach walking on the boardwalk with my wife, and I saw these gentlemen playing handball, a typical NYC sport, and I was watching their formations and patterns, and started shooting.
Sometimes in the case of “ Into the Shadows” I have a preconceived idea of what I want to photograph and schedule my models and time. Each image is different.
How does photography affect the way you see the world?
As a photographer, I see the world different from the layman. I try to notice everything around me as I walk around. I’m the consummate street photographer, always looking for something new and different. It might be the gargoyle on top of a building or it might be the way a child is walking lazily after their family. It’s an initial taught response that becomes second nature.
Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects?
I do have an upcoming project but it’s in the beginning stages, so maybe we’ll talk about it in a few months. In the meantime I am continuing the “Fragment” series as well as collaborating with several other photographers, developing their work with them, using my technical skills of photography and retouching to bring out more creativity in their work. Hopefully I will do more of that in the future as it’s fun to work with other creative people and collaborate on their projects.
Thank you Mitchell for sharing your art and your thoughts.