The latest interview in the ‘Add to queue’ series is with a real stalwart of the film photography YouTube scene. His smooth tones are relaxing and draw you in to the video whether he is talking about photography, or his other passion of music, specifically Jazz.
His videos tend to be short and focussed, often him sat on a big ball talking to camera (It’s better than it sounds!). His photography is very varied, but a lot of what he produces is ‘boudoir’ style, and very good too. He quotes Saul Leiter as an influence and I think you can really see that in his street shots, what do you think?
RD: You have an on-screen presence that is so unique. Can you tell us a little about yourself? I know certain things from your YouTube channel and website, for example, I know you are both a photographer and a well-respected jazz guitarist. I know you shoot with a Leica M6 and almost always (always?) use black and white film. What else should we know about Ted Vieira? How would you describe the essence of ’Ted’?
TV: Man, the essence of Ted, that’s a good question. Yeah, my two favorite passions in life are jazz and black and white film photography. For me, they coincide quite well together. I see parallels that exist in both. My favorite music and photography is that of the mid-twentieth century. The jazz of Miles, Bird, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery; the photography of Saul Leiter, W. Eugene Smith, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau… I like stuff that’s old school.
Yeah, my favorite camera is my M6. I go back and forth between that and the M3. The thing I love the most about those cameras is the way it feels to shoot with them. All mechanical; no auto-anything. I kind of equate that experience to driving a car that has a manual transmission. Yeah, automatic transmission is certainly easier, but with manual it’s just more fun; you’re more engaged and part of the process. The more you put in, the more you get out of the experience.
When it comes to photography, and art in general, I’m not about technical perfection. My primary focus is on the feel of the photograph; the emotional impact; how it connects with the viewer and tells a story. I couldn’t care less about stuff like losing shadow detail, blown highlights, etc… unless it adds to the overall feel of the photo. Often I love losing the detail in the shadows. I like the way it simplifies the image and lets you focus on the main subject without a lot of extra noise; distraction.
RD: I love how you talk about inspiration in a number of your videos, and how creativity and inspiration aren’t the same thing. Can you expand on that a bit here for people?
TV: Yeah, for me, creativity is one of the most essential elements of life. It’s what adds the color to everything (and yes, I get that might be an awkward reference from someone obsessed with black and white). When I first started my channel it was primarily gear talk. Since then I’ve really worked to steer away from just talking about gear, and if I do, it’s usually about older film cameras. It’s more important to me now to have a channel that talks more about creativity, passion, inspiration, motivation… a few of my favorite things.
RD: You are a strong advocate of printing your photographic work, which I think a lot of readers will resonate with. What would you say is the one biggest difference between seeing a photograph on a screen and seeing it on paper?
TV: Yeah man, printing your photographs will increase your love of photography 100%. I really can’t stress that enough. The biggest differences I see between the two mediums:
- It’s really hard to effectively describe the sense of reward you get from printing. There’s such a greater level of satisfaction that comes from holding a beautiful print of your photograph than what you’ll get from looking at it on a screen.
- A printed photograph captures more attention from the viewer. Someone can hold a printed photo in their hands, or view it on the wall, at home or at a gallery. It’s not something they will quickly dismiss and because it’s not the norm anymore, it’s more of a unique, special experience. The most popular way we consume digital images is usually on social media. In that case each image is usually in front of the viewer for just a few seconds (if even that long) before they keep scrolling. The image can get lost in a sea of images.
- More commitment to your work. If you go to the effort of creating a good quality print, yeah man, there’s more work to. But again, the more you put in, the more you get out.
- I could keep going, but I know your readers have lives to live. One last thing I’d like to add; I’ve been working on a small book project. It’s the first time I’ve looked into doing something like this and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s another form of printing, another maybe more effective way of using your photos to tell a story. I’ll be sharing my process and journey with this project in upcoming videos on the channel. I really am enjoying this.
RD: You mention your love of Rollei Retro 400s in a few videos. I am a huge fan of Rollei Retro 80s, in fact, I did a “5 Frames With…” for EMULSIVE.org using it a few years ago. What is it about the 400s that you particularly love?
TV: You know man, what I love about Rollei Retro 400s is how it can really add a very moody aesthetic to a photo. Grain for days, and it has kind of a softer look; takes the edge off; especially in low light. Beautiful tones. It really does have a beautiful look.
RD: Nine of your last 24 videos have a thumbnail that I would describe as ‘boudoir’ or ‘intimate portraiture’ and there is a liberal sprinkling of them throughout your channel. This is obviously a style you keep coming back to? Why is that? I know you make a business of it but there must be more to it than that.
TV: I started doing this kind of work a number of years ago. What I really love about it is working with someone else to create art that really connects with the viewer, but isn’t just about being a sexy photograph. I still want more story in these shots than the typical boudoir/cheesecake photography.
I love passion, sensuality; but I want to make it more intimate; have more of a personal feeling to it. I like photos that really capture this aspect of the human condition. Maybe even pull in elements like loneliness and other more somber emotions. I feel like we can all relate to that and helps make more of a connection with the viewer. But in the end I want the viewer to come away with their own interpretation; their own story of what they see in the photo.
RD: I think if I were to describe you in one word it would be ‘deep’. You seem to think and feel a lot about photography as an art form. What do you think (and/or feel) about the art of photography right now?
TV: Hmmmm, I think the art of photography is doing pretty good these days. I know that there is, more emphasis on gear than there should, especially with digital photography. It seems that the majority of newer photographers are more interested in the latest camera and lens, rather than learning more about photography and making stronger photos, telling better stories. But on the flip side I’ve seen a lot of really creative photography happening these days.
There are a lot of photographers doing some really beautiful and powerful work. Although I think the majority of stuff you see on YouTube will always be more gear related, I’m seeing more and more photographers starting to embrace the realization that it’s not the gear. It’s what you do with it.
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RD: What has your photographic journey been like to where you are now? How did you start photographing people and how did you come to start the YouTube channel? Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start a channel or podcast?
TV: I came late to photography. I used to use point & shoots when I was younger, but nothing serious. Just photographing friends, vacations, stuff like that.
In my early 40s, I was still playing music full-time but was also getting into web design and started doing product photography for clients. Next, I started working with models that a couple of agencies here in Vegas would send to me. I also started getting together with models from Model Mayhem and doing more creative work.
That’s where the intimate portraiture started coming in. I liked working with the models but wanted to do more creative work than what you usually see in a typical model portfolio, especially back then.
I’ve loved street photography, anyway you want to define that. When I first started in that genre I loved photographing people. After a while though, I became more interested in shooting at night out on the street; looking to find moody scenes. Lots of story there.
Currently, I’m looking forward to being more focused on projects rather than just going out with my camera and seeing what happens. I do want to start printing more of these small project books and concentrate on moving in that direction.
As for my channel, I started putting videos on YouTube when I started shooting with Fujifilm X Series gear. I hadn’t really been producing a lot of web content for the past couple years and I decided I’d just start uploading videos every time I picked up a new piece of Fuji gear. I didn’t think anyone would see or watch the videos. I was really just doing it because it was fun and I was bored. I love the channel now particularly because of the interaction I get with other photographers. Great stuff.
If anyone reading this is thinking about starting a podcast or YouTube channel, yeah man, just do it. Don’t over think it. Don’t wait until you’ve got the right gear, just start. It can be easy or as intricate as you want to make it. I keep things pretty simple, but then you’ve got other channels that are doing ultra-high production. You can make it what ever you want, but just start.
Professionally speaking, it’s the most effective way to build brand these days. Having a YouTube channel lets your clients get to know you; get a good feel of what they can expect when working with you. Consistency is probably the biggest challenge; coming up with content on a regular basis. That’s okay, you’ll figure it out. Just start. Have fun.
Thank you Ted for taking part in this series and making this such an easy interview. Nice.
If you are a YouTuber and would like to be part of this series, or if you have a favourite channel that I haven’t covered yet, please get in touch with either myself or EM and we will get the gears moving.
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