Interviewed in April of 2014
Current town: Danvers, MA
Website: Click Here
Email: Click Here
1.) Tell us a little about where you’re from or where you grew up… and how that influences the type of art you’ve found yourself making?
I was born in Albuquerque, NM and moved to Massachusetts when I was about five. My memories of NM were that it was very flat with some great sunsets. I think that perhaps a few of the slight things pulled from my youth there was a fondness for turquoise blue as part of a color palette and native American feathers.
2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that have had a profound meaning to you and your art? ie; Your schooling? A place of major inspiration?
After moving to Massachusetts, I lived in Mansfield, (at the time) a small suburban farm town. As locations for some of my art and fashion work I have a great love of shooting in abandoned spaces. I remember as a kid sneaking into an abandoned house where an older couple had passed away. It was a big rush, my first trespassing experience, and the eerie feeling of seeing household items, frozen in time.
3.) What’s it like in general working as a photographer in the fashion industry? From an outsiders perspective it sure seems you might have the greatest job on earth.
In general it is the greatest job on earth, however, I don't really view it as a job, more like a passion. The best thing for me is to be able to collaborate with some amazing other talented artists, models, makeup, hair and wardrobe stylists toward making something memorable.
4.) Essentially everything is digital nowadays. Are the days of using traditional film, negatives and chemical developing officially extinct?
Not exactly, recently there is a small resurgence with young photographers experimenting with traditional films and cameras. The hard part is finding labs that still process it.
I am about to start a fashion/portrait project using a traditional black and white films and camera.
5.) With seemingly everyone who has a smart phone and a couple free apps now dabbling in the world of photography, what really separates that final image from amateur to professional?
Great question! Defining amateur to pro is usually based on whether or not someone is actually getting paid to take that photograph. The smart phone is just another tool to use.
6.) Some of your location sites for photo shoots range from condemned and abandoned buildings to South Beach, FL. Is there any particular locale that still resonates with you as your personal favorite?
I can think of 2 that stand out as favorites, and they are polar opposites. The first was shooting on a beach in the Dominican Republic. I was shooting a model against a backdrop of blue and red colored stone with layers of texture, waves crashing as the sun sets, a vivid memory of sight and sound.
The other memorable location was shooting in Lincoln, Rhode Island at an abandoned summer cottage community. There was a cluster of about 40 summer cottages in all different stages of dis-repair. Again bringing me back to my childhood, with many of the cottages seemingly abandoned in a hurried manner. Kitchen utensils still hanging on a wall, stacks of dishes still in the cupboard, kids toys laying on the floor.
7.) What’s been the most challenging part of building a career as a professional artist? ie; family, $$$, time, inspiration, networking, etc….
Almost everything listed, except inspiration. I never seem to have a shortage of inspiration and new ideas. I am lucky enough to have a supportive wife who might not always understand my art but realizes it is a huge part of who I am. The money is always in the back of your mind as an issue, ie; reference "supportive working wife." The time is endless, it seems like never enough hours in the day. Part of having your own business is networking and I try to make the most of it.
8.) Who was the most important or influential person in your life guiding your direction as an artist?
I can think of 3 people: first of all my wife, who has always been there for me, through good times and bad. The second person would be my father, who was an art teacher while growing up, he exposed me to lots of art on an everyday basis as well as taking the family to museums just to look at and study art. The third person being one of my college photography and drawing professors, Elaine Fisher. She taught me that while taking a photograph, to always turn and look over my shoulder, sometimes the best things are happening elsewhere and to look where it might not always be the most obvious.
9.) While a traditional artist’s tools consist of brushes, paint & canvas, you can’t create without proper lenses, batteries and lighting. What’s been your most reliable and consistent product or piece of equipment over the years? Right down to brand name and model. Fork over some industry secrets to our readers.
No big secrets really… I shoot with Canon cameras and lenses for digital. I own a Canon 5D and 7D. I shoot a lot of video also, using both of these. For my traditional film work I shoot with a Hasselblad. For lighting, I prefer natural daylight if possible but if it requires studio lighting I use Profoto strobes or recently I have been using LED light panels. For quick unexpected shots I always have my iPhone handy.
10.) Presentation can be a tricky aspect when it comes to photography. From traditionally framed behind glass to even printed on metal, there seems to be ever changing methods to display a photograph. Your work in its final stage on the gallery wall separates itself from traditional photography. What kind of methods, and decision making get you to your finished product?
I have been working a lot recently with combining my photography with some mixed media elements. I find myself drawing and rubbing paints and textures as well as pastels on my photographs. As for displaying the final piece I have been using wood based panels verses a traditional frame behind glass. I am not a big fan of glass due to reflection and a seeming added layer that says, "don't touch". Usually the piece dictates the presentation.
11.) What’s your approach to starting a new piece when unlike traditional artists with a blank canvas or sketch book your searching for the unknown? As a photographer have you ever found yourself sketching and drawing to work out concepts and ideas for a shoot? Or are you allowing whatevercolors and materials you discover to guide you and inspire you?
I almost always start a new project with a concept in mind. I try to tell a story with my photos. Usually I think in terms of multiple images like a book or magazine. I get inspiration from fashion magazines, art books, almost everywhere. Nowadays I find great things on the web and use Pinterest to gather ideas or things I like for a certain project. Also when collaborating on projects, I use Pinterest as a source for sharing things with other team members. I much prefer sharing a photo with someone vs. a verbal description. Sometimes, I do sketch something out with pencil, then I take a photo of the sketch and add that to the mood board or concept theme. Follow me and some of my concepts, http://www.pinterest.com/bpackert/
12.) Texture takes center stage and binds your catalog of imagery. Regardless of location or tone or subject matter, the textures and surfaces seem to emerge as more than just the co-star. Is this something that manifests without much intent? Or are you pretty locked in to finding and utilizing textures wheneverpossible?
I have always been drawn to texture in things, whether it be the bark of a tree in nature or the pattern of fabric used in a piece of wardrobe. I tend to gravitate towards texture, but try to keep an open mind as to whether or not the photograph or mixed media piece dictates that use of texture.
13.) Who is the most underrated artist out there right now that you think should be in next years volume of Chroma? Who ya got?
hmmmmm, good question, there are so many talented and underrated artists out there.
14.) You already have a staggering client list: Forbes, Reebok, Cole Haan, Volkswagen, Newsweek, Polaroid, etc. What’s left on your ‘dream client’ list? Anyone you’ve always wanted to work with and the stars just haven’t aligned yet?
Italian Vogue has always been tops on the list. They like to push the boundaries combined with amazing wardrobe!
15) Extra credit question... Craziest experience on set at a photo shoot? What story tops them all?
I will give you the short version of this story. It took place on the Dominican fashion shoot a couple of years ago for a local designer. We were staying in a small fishing town on the border of Haiti. We were lucky enough to have a local guide and interpreter along for the shoot as well as a security guard. We took a small motorboat to what I thought was a small deserted island off the coast. Just as I started shooting, I literally looked up from my camera and realized that our small crew was being surrounded by about 16 men with pistols. I guess the island is a known drop point for smuggling of drugs. Tempers started to escalate so we made our way back to our boat and hurried off the island. By the time our boat made it back to mainland we were met by a TV film crew and ended up on the 6:00 o'clock news that night. Unreal experience!