People: Harrison Hurwitz

ImageHarrison Hurwitz is an amazing photographer and someone you should know. Check out his blog and get to know him via this interview. (and yes it is intimidating to photograph a photographer!)

Who’s behind Harrison Hurwitz Photography?
That would be myself and my wife Michelle, who has been an integral part of the business for over 8 years. I do the shooting and meet with clients. Most of the credit goes to me, although Michelle does so much behind the scenes to keep clients happy and the business rolling along. Most people have no idea the amount of time and skill that goes into producing the final result for our clients.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I think I was about 9 years old. It was a Konica 35 mm film camera. At that time, I was pretty introverted, so I never took photos of people, only pictures of plants and scenery. Now I am a people photographer. I guess I came out of my shell. 

 What’s a typical day like?
There is no such thing as a typical day, as many of my shoots are either weddings, magazine portraits, or events that must be captured whenever they occur. When I am not shooting, I am editing images, marketing the business, scouting locations, responding to inquiries, etc….. Michelle designs the wedding books we do, makes sure orders are fulfilled, works on our website, and too many other things to mention.
What do clients like best about your photos?
I think there is a naturalness to my images that people seem to like. Because I was a psychologist and then a fashion photographer in NYC, I know how to put people at ease and how to make them look their best, but in a candid way. And doing it quickly (I have an “extra gear” from living in NYC so long. Hah!).  Also, I have had the challenge of photographing several celebrities, and they typically will give you just a few minutes, so you had better be organized and be quick. I also believe in the process of “woodshedding”, where a musician used to practice by himself in the wood shed, which the best jazz musicians did to create their own, distinct sound. For me, that meant years of experimenting with various film stocks, so that my work has a unique feel to it. I have to create photos that excite me as much as they excite my clients. Otherwise, I could not do this professionally for 28 years. Most people see that my work is quite different, probably because I use films that no one else does, and I am very particular about the way my film is processed.  I have also saved some film stocks that are no longer produced.

What’s been the most surprising/funny/unexpected thing(s) to happen so far?
The rapid exodus of pro photographers from film to digital originally shocked me. It was as if film was a disease. I have an attachment to certain film stocks, to the slower process of creating images with film, and to the historical aspects of film photography. I actually don’t like to see my images instantly.  I prefer to “daydream” what they will be like, before seeing them. Of course, all my film negatives are scanned at high resolution, so we have the advantages of the digital world, but with the beauty of film.  Just in the past year, I have met some pros who are starting to shoot film again, even though it is usually in small doses. Anyway, it’s good to see that film is still here.
 Why do you do what you do? 
First, I want to share my art with others, to add beauty and interest to their lives.  I also love a challenge, and photographing people always provides challenges!  I often capture what might be called the essence of a person, although in reality we are all multifaceted.  Every shoot is a journey towards creating that essential type of image, and most people I photograph need some help along the way. Everyone was teased about their looks as a child, and some of those insecurities never go away completely. I keep up a stream of conversation, so they don’t think about their looks or feel self conscious.
 Any future goals or plans we need to know about?
A few times each year I give myself assignments. Sometimes I will go with another photographer to a location like Bisbee or Tucson for a day long shoot. I just came back from Taos, New Mexico, where I photographed some artists and old adobe ruins. Currently, I am working on a book that is a psychological inquiry about how artists and others perceive art in their lives. The participants are asked a bunch of questions about this, and I will be doing a photo portrait of some of the participants.
If you could go anywhere to take pictures, where would it be? 
That’s a tough question. I have learned that you don’t need to be in a fabulous location to produce wonderful photos. That said, the light here in Arizona is quite harsh most of the year, so I am drawn to the more northern or more humid climates. I have done some shoots in the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast, and in Seattle, where the quality of the light is softer, and it stays light until 9:30 PM in the summer.  So sweet.

If you had to pick your favorite camera to use, what would it be?
That’s easy. My favorite is my film camera, Maurice and his “brothers”. He is a Nikon FM2, which is fully manual and built like a tank (I am very hard on equipment, so I carry a spare of everything).  What I love about Maurice is that he forces me to slow down, to think about what film stock will work best in a given situation, and I also concentrate harder with film. Almost any digital camera will produce consistently good images these days.  However, great images are created in your mind, before you trip the shutter, so it rarely matters what camera you are using. 
Tell us something we don’t know about you, your company or the universe at large.  
I could live in a world with no photography, but not in one without music. The inspiration for many of my photos comes from music I listen to, especially soulful music or jazz done in the 50’s and 60’s.  Otis Redding singing “Try a Little Tenderness” still gives me chills. Other artists I love include Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Tom Rush, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Hartman, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis have had a big effect on me.
Hometown and current city!
 I am from New York City, but I am based in Phoenix, Arizona
Harrison photographed our wedding and did our engagement shots several years ago. Here’s two of my favorites- although it is hard to choose!