INTERVIEW // BEN BLOOD
Interview by Sachin Khona // August 2018
Reading time: 15 mins
Photo of Ben: James Moes
At the heart of Ben Blood‘s photography, it’s about documenting the emotions we can’t see at any given moment. The small, untraceable fragments that last within a breath and move beyond words. His work speaks volumes in capturing the mood of an experience without it being forced and lets the human condition and moment speak for itself in all of its unbridled joy. Ben’s work is special.
Ever since Ben picked up his first SLR camera in 2005, he was hooked. He packed his bags and took his art on the road with a rock band, and later photographed his mother’s wedding. By 2008, he captured twenty-two weddings and has been doing that ever since. In 2012, Ben was named in the Top 30 Upcoming Wedding Photographers by PDN Magazine and was later featured by Rangefinder Magazine. His photography continues to move the needle of innovation in the wedding photography world and there’s no sign of him stopping anytime soon.
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER?
During my mid-teens, I began taking photos of everyday life, so I think that was beginning for me. I had a 1.2 megapixel Olympus camera and took obscure photos of shapes and lines on the ceiling or out in the city. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started shooting commissioned portraits, events, and weddings.
WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU AND WHERE DO YOU WORK?
I work from home in Tacoma, Washington.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED THERE OR WAS THERE A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO MOVE THERE?
Seattle was home for 20 years, but my wife and I recently moved to Tacoma which is about 30 minutes south. The greater Seattle area has always been home for me.
DOES YOUR LOCATION INFLUENCE YOUR WORK IN ANY WAY?
Oh man, I could say so much about this. Natural landscapes are abundant in the Pacific Northwest, but with photography, I have always been drawn to the visual geometry of cities. Lines, shapes, weighted compositions—and all of the people.
The humanity of black and white street photography from the early to mid 20th century has always drawn me in.
DO YOU HAVE A DESIGNATED WORKSPACE OR OFFICE?
Yes, I share a workspace with my wife in our home. She is an illustrator (@kalieblood).
DO YOU FEEL THERE WAS A TURNING POINT, MONUMENTAL TIME, OR SERIES OF EVENTS IN YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU FELT AS THOUGH YOU WERE ON THE RIGHT PATH IN REGARDS TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CAREER AND IT BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
In the mid-2000s was my first experience doing photography for work. I was a staff photographer for media outlets on my university campus. There were about ten of us photographers on staff. Bryan Aulick and Brandon Witzel were two photo mentors who I looked up to and were a source of inspiration. We’d go on what we called ‘photo journeys’ to create stock-like images for editorial. I learned studio lighting, Photoshop tricks, file management practices—a lot of real world experience that I’ve carried with me. This is when I developed a photojournalistic eye and also started to shoot weddings here and there.
A second milestone was right after university in 2007. I toured with a Seattle-local band across the country, from West coast to East coast for six months. I was shooting a lot and posting to my personal blog. During that time I made a lot of casual connections, my blog following grew—but being around the three other guys I was traveling with opened my heart to love and compassion for others.
In between these two milestones, I transformed from an INTP to an ENFJ which really changed my relationships with clients as well as how I shoot subjects.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE VIA A SERIES OF PHOTOS THAT YOU FEEL DEFINE THE WORK YOU’VE DONE IN THE LAST YEAR AND WHERE POSSIBLE DESCRIBE WHY EACH ONE WAS INCLUDED?
Emotion and tenderness are things that pull me in. I like to be up close and in the heart of a moment. If you’re able to create a safe space for people, I believe mutual acceptance can take place. They can be their true selves.
I tend to see more in lines, shapes, and composition than color. I spend a few hours at this location soaking in the light and lines of architecture.
One of the early photos I took of the ceiling. This was shot on Zorki 4 Russian film rangefinder with a 50mm lens.
More lines. This one is from Iceland. I usually shoot normal to wide angle, but took at 135mm on this trip and am happy I had it with me.
Emotion, gesture, hands, expression. I was pretty close to the subject with this one. These two had a really great spirit together.
Her dad was carrying her dress while we were moving in between portraits. Both her mom and dad came along while we were doing pre-ceremony portraits. It added even more meaning to those images.
We had finished portraits and family formals and the ceremony was up next. There was a stream of light and they graciously took a few minutes for photos.
It started raining and I suggested we head back to keep the rain from messing up her hair. He asked if she minded being in the rain, so we kept shooting. This image happened right after. I learned not to assume on calling it quits.
Champagne and beautiful light in their living room after their backyard wedding.
Elopement of two artists the central coast of California. She said she knew they wanted me to be their photographer when they read that I was inspired by Terrence Malick films.
This beautiful couple empowered and encouraged my creative freedom.
Family and friends stood on a bank of a river for this intimate wedding ceremony. There is a raw and free spirit of smaller weddings that I enjoy.
Had to run ahead through the tunnel for this unstaged shot. One of the images I am most proud of from the past year. Again, you can see the beaming spirit of this couple.
He had champagne in one hand, her hand in the other. That made the photo.
WHAT INSPIRES AND MOTIVATES YOU TO CREATE?
Witnessing tangible good come from art and creativity. Being in new places and new experiences. Winter sunlight. Hearing stories of humanity. Sometimes it is just an indescribable feeling, too. I think I’m the most inspired when I am around other artists.
DO YOU DO ANY CREATIVE TRAINING OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK?
Not as much as I would like. The most recent event I attended was called Collaborations For A Cause by Blue Earth Alliance. It is an annual event focusing on the power of partnerships and connecting content creators who are creating for causes (social, environmental, etc.).
WHEN YOU GET STUCK CREATIVELY, WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DO TO GET UNSTUCK?
Step out of my routine or environment that I typically experience. Look to other fields of design and creativity (music, architecture, furniture design) for a fresh perspective. Go for walk.
Take a break from screens and pick up a magazine.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR WORK IS FINISHED AND NEEDS NO ADDITIONAL WORK?
Hmmm. I guess I believe that almost any piece of work has room for improvement—either in pre-production or post-production, but a balance of perfection has to exist for each person. Often I’ll reach out to creative buddies who I identify with for honest feedback. James Moes, Nirav Patel , and Brett Carlson—they help me see things in my work I might not see for myself.
Editor’s note: Read interviews with James Moes here >> ARC interview
Nirav Patel here >> ARC interview
ARE THERE ANY KEY LESSONS IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE? OR IS THERE A BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Get close to your subjects.
“I believe photography—like many other things one does in life—is the exact expression of who one is at a given moment: every time you compose and release the shutter you give voice to your thoughts and opinions of the world around you . . . I would recommend working to become a more developed and informed individual, a more knowledgeable and engaged citizen. This will translate into a deeper more complex understanding of the world around you, and ultimately into a richer and more meaningful photography.” – PAOLO PELLEGRIN
thanks for sharing that with us BEN. Valuable to hear that great advice.
can you DESCRIBE A PHOTOGRAPH BURNED IN YOUR MEMORY THAT YOU NEVER TOOK BUT WISH YOU HAD?
One of my first 10 weddings I shot was my mom’s—she remarried. We never made it to taking any family formals on my side of the family, and but I wish we had.
CAN YOU SHARE ONE CREATIVE TIP THAT YOU USE WHEN YOU ARE WORKING?
Allow your subject(s) to be comfortable around you. Don’t make the photographs about you, but about them.
WHAT ARE THE 3 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN YOUR LIFE?
My faith, my family, and helping others.
Do you work / contribute / volunteer in any other fields outside of photography?
I am tech support for all of my family, does that count? Haha. I’m a bit of an audiophile and volunteer as audio and technology director at my church.
CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE / ROUTINES?
Nothing out of the ordinary. Coffee and music are mainstays.
DO YOU HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE?
Not personally. Our cat William does, though. Typically he yells and pounces on me for his breakfast well before my morning alarm goes off.
What within your work do you not like to do and why?
Posting on social media, because of the comparison and inauthenticity around all of it.
DO YOU feel you ACHIEVE “WORK/LIFE BALANCE”?
Mostly. I don’t email on the weekends and have pretty regular office hours.
WHICH PERSON DO YOU RESPECT MOST IN YOUR LIFE?
I’m going to go with a well known person—Martin Luther King, Jr., for standing up against oppression, being an icon in the fight for social equality, and his courage to risk his life for that cause.
WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST / MOST PAINFUL CREATIVE FAILURE TO DEAL WITH AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
Smaller failures have held me back from taking bigger risks at times. Thankfully I haven’t had a really large failure. Once I held a small exhibition that didn’t have the outcome I was hoping for, and for a long time I didn’t want to do anymore exhibitions. I learned that a website was a better option for the work I was creating at that time.
Each failure prepares you for the next one, and you’ll get closer to your goal.
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING (OR HOPE TO BE DOING) 5/10 YEARS FROM NOW?
My heart wants me to be a documentary photojournalist around social and economic issues. My head is saying that career isn’t financially sustainable. I’m working on a plan.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
ARE THERE ANY MANTRAS THAT YOU LIVE BY?
Not specifically, no.
IF YOU WERE NO LONGER ABLE TO USE A CAMERA, HOW ELSE WOULD YOU EXPRESS YOUR CREATIVITY BEN?
For an explicit creative outlet, for sure music. For a bit more opaque expression, perhaps a startup around social and humanitarian efforts.
AND IF YOU ONLY HAD 24 HOURS TO LIVE, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND YOUR DAY?
Ah! Probably calling all of the significant people in my life and talking with them.
HAVE YOU EVER DOUBTED YOUR TALENT? AND IF SO, HOW DID YOU WORK THROUGH YOUR DOUBT?
Oh for sure. Comparison is so hard to defeat. I think the encouragement can come from outside by others, or within from knowing yourself. Practically, the content in LFI and Good magazines always encourages me.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE ASPECT OF OUR SOCIETY THROUGH YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Bringing understanding that we live in a global community where we are interdependent on each other. Shifting the insular perspective that a group of people or countries are greater than another.
THANK YOU, BEN!
You can see more of Ben’s work here // Web
And connect on social here // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter
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Above Images by 2018 Speaker Catalina Jean
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