Photography Q & A with Curt Fissel

To celebrate the launch of our new Instagram account (voicesvisions), we sat down with our director of photography, Curt Fissel, to talk about the art of the photograph.
What inspired you to go into photography in the first place?
My mother loved art. She exposed me to art from an early age and she gave me my first camera when I was five years old.

What is your continued source of inspiration?
I take hours of video and thousands of photographs a year. I’m always inspired for the perfect shot, and probably I still haven’t found it yet. There was one shot that came close, but I’m still searching for it.

Delicious Peace, Video Production, Documentary Production, Corporate Video, Nonprofit Video, Coffee farmers, Uganda

This photo was taken during the filming of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean

That’s the photograph that made me the happiest in the last many years.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Really concentrate on composition. You need to take in all the elements of the frame; that’s your easel, so everything in that frame is important. Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective. The angle of the shot and the lighting are important, but it all starts with composition. You have to pay attention to foreground and to the position of the frame. When you miss the composition, don’t use that shot. Also, be critical of your own work. If the shot is bad, figure out how to do it right the next time. You’re only fooling yourself if you can’t criticize your work.

How has technology like Photoshop changed photography as a business? As an art?
Digital has changed everything. Art has evolved along with the technology. It’s cool to use Photoshop for advertising and I do believe in adjusting levels and sharpening, but I don’t believe in manipulating the true image. I shoot full frame, I don’t crop. I know people do it, but I believe in the art of composition. I’m not trying to be a snob, but certainly there is something to taking a photo that stands on its own.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start learning Photoshop?
Lynda.com is a good tutorial website.

What is the first thing you do when you get a new piece of equipment?
I sit with the owner’s manual until I’m comfortable with the workings of my new camera. As soon as you think you know everything, you’re hosed. Problems generally can be solved, and those manuals are made for something. Make sure you know the camera you’re using, the limitations and the exceptional features.

If time and money were no issue, where would you go and what would you shoot?
I’d like to spend a few months traveling through Uganda and shoot a book on birds on Mount Elgon.

Some background on Curt: he began his career as a news cameraman with an NBC affiliate station, then moved to NJN (PBS) where he became Chief Photographer and Manager of News and Documentary Staff. He has also freelanced for outlets including HBO, CBS, ABC Nightline, CNN, YES Network, America’s Most Wanted, and Voice of America. For the past 15 years he has directed, photographed and edited eight documentaries for national PBS audiences, international film festivals and other global events as well as for multiple award-winning corporate video production company Voices & Visions Productions.

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One Response to “Photography Q & A with Curt Fissel”

  1. Photo of the Week « Ellenfriedland's Blog Says:

    […] Ellenfriedland's Blog Weblog about the corporate and documentary video production in which I am involved « Photography Q & A with Curt Fissel […]

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