We are beyond thrilled to announce that Randal Ford has joined the Marianne Campbell Associates roster. To welcome him we thought a quick 10 question interview would give some insight into the newest member of the MCA family. Here he tells us why the photograph of his infant son with a bruised eye is his favorite, why he was quaking in his boots in front of Tommy Lee Jones, and crossing the line between personal and commercial.
Is there one image you’re the most proud of?
“If there’s one, then it’s the one of my son with the bruised eye—because it’s my son, and because it was on the cover of Communication Arts.”
Why do you think people are so drawn to that image?
“I think what works so well is it’s simple and it tells a story—and a pretty powerful one. But it also leaves a lot to the viewer’s imagination; it could be a sad image or it could be an image of a really tough kid. I’ve been on kind of a kick looking for simplicity, and at the same time being able to tell a story.”
How does your personal work affect your commercial work, and vice versa?
“I have a lot of work that crosses the line between personal and commercial. A good recent example is my work with animals. I photographed some 30 animals on this really neutral clean background to really show off the personality and profile, and used a lighting aesthetic that has a really fine art feel. I’m selling fine art prints, but what’s cool is that I also got a job that came through those pieces.”
You’re well known for your portraits of people and of animals. Which one do you prefer?
“One of the things that I love about the range of work that I do is that I’m able to stay fresh on what I’m doing. I don’t get sick of just shooting people or just shooting animals. There’s something about the connectivity between subject and photographer that I love, but creating portraits of animals has it’s own interesting aspects and challenges. The lack of control when shooting animals is freeing but is also a good exercise to balance out the control I have when creating portraits of people.”
Of all the places you’ve been and the projects you’ve done, which one was the most fun?
“The first time I photographed some exotic animals was out in LA. I decided to photograph a lion, a tiger, and a bear for my portfolio. Being in a studio with a big cat off leash is an incredible experience. The size and presence of these cats is so tangible, so powerful, and commands respect. Time flies but at the same time, stands still.”
You’ve talked a lot about not just retouching but also digital manipulation, compositing, and even CGI. Where do you draw the line of what is or isn’t a photograph?
“In my opinion, if it still looks like a photograph, then it’s a photograph. When it becomes overly manipulated and it’s just blatantly obvious that it’s not a photograph, then that’s when it becomes a manipulation or a photo illustration. One of the things I’m really trying to achieve is creating work that feels photographic in nature and doesn’t feel like an illustration, but still expands what you can do with the camera.”
In the early days there were photographers and cinematographers, but more and more, those roles overlap. How do the two mediums inform each other?
“I think it depends on the job and what the assignment calls for as to what tool to use. But one of my goals in shooting motion and print is to bring a continuity or consistency between all of those mediums, whether it’s a still photograph, or a cinemagraph, or a 30-second spot. If I can bring a cohesiveness to that as a director for all of those pieces, then I feel like I’m doing a good job.”
If you could only take one more portrait of anyone, who would you photograph?
“Ten years ago I photographed Tommy Lee Jones. I was so green. I showed up by myself to photograph this well-known, cantankerous celebrity. He was very challenging and not the nicest, and I was very nervous. The image was included in the Communication Arts Photo Annual that year and I was very proud of it, but during the shoot, it was a bit of a punch in the gut. So, if I could only take one more portrait, it would actually be another chance with TLJ, regardless of how much of a hard-ass he is. Ten years later, I’ve learned a lot more about myself, how to handle challenging situations, and hopefully I would come away with another interesting portrait. I mean, he does have a great face.”
What’s the next personal project on the list?
“Last year I dove into faces of animals lit in a very timeless way and shot with a very clean and simple aesthetic. In the next six months I want to do more faces in that style and aesthetic, but I want to go back to human faces.”
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
“If I wasn’t a photographer… I love the outdoors I think I would do something outdoors, maybe something like a snowboard instructor.”
Welcome Randal, we are thrilled to have you!