Lorne Resnick left Toronto for Los Angeles 20 years ago, by way of (to name a few favorites) Amsterdam, Papua New Guinea, Cuba, Vietnam, the Bahamas and 22 countries in Africa. He is passionate about creating the decisive moment, that unique instant that transforms photography into a moment of universal connection. Here he discusses his views and creative approaches.
Tell me about your early life.
I was born and raised in Canada and studied business for one year at the University of Toronto. It wasn’t exactly a match for me, and when my best friend decided to go shooting in Europe, I joined him. I never regretted the decision. When I returned, I spent time shooting rock concerts, which led to publishing my first book, Live in Concert: 10 Years of Rock ‘n Roll. Shortly after the book was published, a job in came up in Amsterdam and I ended up staying there for 7 years developing my fine art and commercial projects into a business. During my Amsterdam stay a friend and I bought a four-wheel-drive Mercedes Benz and drove from Amsterdam to Cape Town [South Africa] which took a year. Africa, with its enormous empty plains, deserts and wonderful animals, was a transformative experience that changed photography from something I loved to do to something I could not do without.
Who were your photographic influences?
A. Some of my favorites are Irving Penn, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Sebastião Salgado, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Galen Rowell, Jan Saudek, Keith Carter, Elliott Erwitt, Richard Avedon and Walker Evans.
Tell me about your fine art photography.
I try to make sure that my work is compelling in my eyes, and most importantly, that I have fun producing it, and that always leads to images I feel are interesting. I continually push my own creative boundaries to make art that is vital, original and has some level of meaning and connection. I feel it’s also important to know the domain in which you are entering, to know what has come before. I do a lot of research before starting a long-term project to make sure I am not copying something that has been done and that I can bring some aspect of a unique voice to the subject. For my style of work, the 35mm format fits best. I would hate to think about lugging a medium-format camera up Kilimanjaro or across the Sahara. I converted to digital a few years ago when the first professional full-frame sensor Canon DSLR came out. Their 11-megapixel sensor produced roughly a 33MB file. Since my fine art posters and large prints shot on film were drum-scanned at anywhere from 120–250MB, I didn’t think a 33MB file would allow me the same quality. However, I soon learned that there were major differences in ways that scanned film vs. digital enlarges. Even more important than the megapixel count is how the actual sensor translates the analog signal to digital. In the end, I was staggered by the quality of the Canon images. I sold all my film cameras and switched to digital after making a full test. In addition, shooting digital is way more fun than film.
Did your fine art work begin in black and white?
Yes, I was very heavily skewed towards black and white at the beginning and then shifted mostly to color. Right now it’s pretty evenly divided between the two. While working with film, I used to carry one camera with black-and-white film and one with color. Now with digital everything is shot in color, but I still see a scene in my mind in one or the other.
What sort of commercial work have you done lately?
Everything from annual reports, to a recent campaign shooting Johnson & Johnson baby soap in a studio, to photographing custom chairs on location in Death Valley to a major advertising campaign for Jacuzzi. Most of the work is on location, often with a crew and art director.
What are some of your recent awards?
PDN World in Focus Award, Black and White Spider Award, and recently I won the Travel Photographer of the Year Award. It’s a prestigious international competition entered by more than 10,000 people from 50 countries.
How do you apportion your work time?
There are often many things vying for my attention, so time management is an ongoing struggle. I try to be selective about what I do and have gotten better and better at the discipline of looking at priorities and making choices before I dive into the flow of a work day. Half of my business is commercial, including shooting for advertising agencies, stock, design firms and direct to client. The second half involves selling limited-edition fine art prints, working on books and creating commercial posters. I try to move each area forward daily in some way.
Do you have employees?
No full-time employees, but for the last few years I’ve had interns about four days a week. For commercial shoots, I hire a crew.
Were all the animals on your website shot in Africa?
Most were. However, I have shot locally with animals that work in the movies and commercials. The chimpanzee, baby tiger and cougar were shot in California, the chimp and baby tigers in my backyard. The animals in Africa look so tame you feel like there is no danger—until you see them come alive in pursuit of prey. Someone once said that a lion’s life is 20 hours of sleep and four hours of pure terror for some other animal. My goal with each animal is to be patient enough to capture a unique moment of behavior that speaks to the animal’s whole character, and even transcends that and speaks to a more universal and anthropomorphic truth.
What is the Young Stars School Project?
It’s a school-building project that my wife and I started during my honeymoon in Africa. We fell in love with the children at a small school just outside Bwindi National Park in Uganda. We feel that education is really the magic bullet and poverty is a cycle that will perpetuate until skills to contribute to the modern world are developed. The Young Stars School Project (www.youngstarsproject.org) is not only dedicated to building schools, but to strengthening communities and creating holistic, healthy learning environments. I feel so fortunate for the things I have been able to see and do in my life. My travels have opened up my eyes and heart and I feel the need to give back. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth.”