Interview with Bruce Percy

I’m pleased to announce the first installment of an informal chat or interview of sorts with my favorite artists. I know Bruce for past 6-7 years through chat, emails, forums, and his publications. He is one of the few who excels at landscape and people photography. He is also a fine teacher and has golden nuggets hidden in his articles and podcasts. If you have not done it yet, Rush!! Visit his blog, website and podcasts: The Light & the Land

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography

Hi Bruce,
Thanks a lot for your time. Shall we start?

Please tell us about the Artists (not necessarily photographers) who have influenced you? and why?

The biggest influence was music originally. I’m a failed musician so this is really where my ‘creative’ side originated. I still find that music plays a big part in influencing me and I tend to like listening to people like Joni Mitchel, Lambchop, Classical, Electronic music. Anything that has a twist to it. I often find that music puts me in a place similar to the place that I go to in my head when I’m working on my photography.

For direct influences, Michael Kenna, although a black and white photographer only, has been very influential in how I go about image making. He has an almost religious way of working and it’s all about what is within, and not about what is in front of the camera.

Galen Rowell first spurred me on to take pictures of the natural world, but Kenna has allowed me to be brave and depart from reality as and when I choose to do so in my photography.

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography



Any upcoming talent you have become fond of?

I do keep up to date with photographers but there tends to be so many that it’s hard to keep track. But I think when you’re committed to your own work, you tend to find yourself thinking and working on your own work rather than thinking about someone elses work. I think that’s what creates individuality….. I don’t feel I do things because I’ve seen or admired someone elses work. I do what I do because I’m driven to do it.

When I found your website about 5-6 years ago I instantly became a fan of your work and the philosophy behind the work. It was you who convinced me, in a way, that it’s not the camera that makes the image but the photographer. Ironically it was also partly your work (there were few others like Guy Tal, Darwin Wiggett etc.) which influenced my decision to purchase medium format equipment and eventually large format. Your thoughts?

It always surprises me how much of an effect or influence I’ve had on others. I think it’s great if someone can inspire you and I’ve certainly felt at times that I’ve done that for visitors to my web site. I’m glad you went Medium Format as you were clearly looking to improve your work. But I try to convince people that the gear isn’t important, and as much as they all tell me they understand that, they quickly follow it up with asking me what lenses and cameras I use as if it’s going to make their images the same as mine !

But I’m pleased I’ve given you some inspiration.

I know that you used to own 5D and were quite happy for some time at least. However you recently sold most of the EOS lenses and I think also the camera. Would you like to tell us about this decision?

I don’t think I was ever really happy with digital. I felt I had to keep giving it a go and thinking that a few months would not be enough time to give it justice. It’s rather complex my decisions to get rid of it, but I think the main point was that I felt I’d lost something that was present in my earlier images and I wanted to regain it. I also find it hard to work with too many cameras. Cutting the systems down so you don’t have an overlap and know what each are for, is a good thing. I found I was shooting film all the time and knew the digital wouldn’t be used. I’m particularly unhappy about the colours and plastic look of digital imagery.

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography


I have always thought of cameras as ‘necessary evil – the cables’ in a good sound system. Have you ever thought this way?

Yes, a camera is an interface between what you saw and the final image. It should be as transparent and easy to use as possible. Anything that hinders, stops you or takes you out of the creative ‘zone’ that you might be in is a bad camera. That’s why getting to know your gear and working with it for a long time is beneficial. You get so used to it, it becomes second nature. People who buy new lenses and new systems all the time are always going to be impacting their photography and losing creativity because they’re unfamiliar with the gear.

Tell us more about your workshops you offer, is it more of 1 to 1 or are there many participants involved? What do you do after a typical photo shoot?

The workshops to date have been in South America. They’re really photo safaris where I take people to some special locations for the best times of the day. On a trip like that its hard to give any real solid tuition but everyone goes away happy because they’ve had an entire week of being immersed in making images. Lots of chatting and sharing thoughts and if we have time, some critiques. I do spend some time with everyone in the field and show them what I do. It’s up to you to decide if you like my way of working but I think people find they are more aware of composition, light, etc when they leave.

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography


I know your passion for the light and from what I have gathered via your podcasts that you go beyond the obvious. Any interesting experiences to share about the adventures?

I’ve fallen into a crevasse in Patagonia once. That was a bit scarey and I knew this all happened because I was determined to get photos in a remote part of the world. There have been a few silly incident for me – often involving cliffs or places I shouldn’t have got myself into. I think sometimes it’s easy to go too far with photography to the point that you overstep safety at times.

You rarely see photographers doing ‘people/portrait’ and ‘landscape’ at the same time. In that sense you are one of the few who manages to come up with fantastic images of people and the land itself. How do you manage this?

I think it’s development. I love landscapes and I feel I want to convey a sense of atmosphere in my images of them. But I’m quite a people person too. I love communicating and love different cultures. I think when you become comfortable with photographing landscapes, it’s natural to want to graph that know-how onto other areas that you are interested in. I feel if I were just doing landscapes, that it would all be a bit one dimensional for me.

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography


It is difficult, I know, to choose few favorites from a wonderful portfolio of yours. However if you decide to which ones will they be, and why?

When I used to write music, I tended to be very precious of my efforts. It’s strange, because my photography has had an impact on a lot of people and as much as I’m passionate about what I do, I find it very easy to distance myself from my work quickly and move on to the next thing.

So I tend to think that the images I like the best are often my most recent images, simply because they’re fresh for me.

© Bruce Percy Photography

© Bruce Percy Photography


I had a look at the new portfolio and must congratulate you. I’m looking forward like a kid in the candy store to the images from India.

Thanks!

PS: This entry was published in May 2009, however I managed to delete it from my blog. I have now recreated it. Hope you enjoy it.