A real treat – Saturday breakfast in Santa Fe with editor extraordinaire Dick Stolley. I spent a good 20 years as a contributing photographer to People Magazine. Fortunately much of that time was under the watchful eye of it’s best editor. Dick’s constructive critique of photography has been instrumental as I strive to tell stories with my camera.
It’s amazing what a properly placed kick in the ass can do to boost one’s career. In the mid-80’s People threw a couple of black-tie parties for its photographers. These expense paid trips to New York allowed us to meet colleagues from around the world, schmooze with photo editors, and party.
Before one of those dinners, Dick shared his thoughts about photography with us. Feeling pretty cocky, we expected accolades. Instead he told us that the photography in the Time-Life magazines was below par. Ego deflater to say the least-we all wanted to crawl out of the room.
His constructive critique and criticism have stayed with me to this day, playing a vital role in my on-going quest to produce the best photographs possible.
According to Dick, a photograph is successful if it elicits an emotional response from the viewer. The “Gasp Factor” as he called it, causes the viewer to stop turning pages, take second looks at the images, reacting to them on an emotional level: through humor, joy, anger, sadness, etc.
As you begin paying more attention to the photographs that really grab your attention, you’ll agree. I’ve repeated his message in the introduction to “Better Available Light Photography”, co-authored with my good friend Joe Farace, in many talks to students and groups interested in good photography, and to myself…often.
Thanks, Dick, for the swift kick…and for the breakfast.