by Mark Barwald in New Photography on Tuesday 3 August 2010

Marvin Joseph, a fashion photographer who has followed a winding path to Sydney, has found more than a few die-hard fans in the models he photographs, as well the clients that seek him out. He believes that we are born to create and has his sights, and his heart, now firmly set on that creative beacon-of-dreams, New York City.

Mark Barwald: Would you say that the technical side of photography is intuitive for you? Was there a defining moment that it changed from being a conscious series of decisions to an instinctual part of the creative process?

Marvin Joseph: To be honest with you, the technical side of photography is not my strongest point, and definitely not intuitive for me. I do know how I want the light to look…and I have a fair idea how to get there…but when it comes to the accuracy of lighting, ha ha….no way, I am still a student in this case…and to be blunt again…it doesn’t bother me…because I know there are people better than me at technical lighting…so my solution is why not use someone better that you? That’s where Tony Nolan comes in…my 75 year old Head Assistant…MacGyver and Light specialist. I learn a lot from him along the way.

MB: How much planning goes into every shoot? Do you plan the shots you want? And how do you allow a great shot to emerge on set, in the moment?

MJ: Planning?! Planning is everything. I can’t go into a shoot without a pre production meeting. I used to just wing it, and would get a certain result. But it sure makes a hell of a difference when there is more thought put into a shoot. In saying that though, I do not like to plan every step of the shoot. I found that way to be too static and rigid. So in the pre production process, I generalize what I want. When I mean generalize, it’s still detailed but I leave gaps for spontaneity. And this is where my mind is at its best, and that goes for any human being. And it’s most apparent in children. So the best images I have produced are when I am child-like, and that is most of the time.

MB: Do you feel a need to connect with your models before you shoot? How do you do that?

MJ: Ideally, before any shoot or video clip, I would like to take my crew and cast to my acreage in Woodstock NYC like the way Francis Ford Coppolla does it…so I can spend time with each of them outside a set environment. If I do not have the luxury of doing that, I have a simple technique…find their PMF. Everyone has a PMF (Primary Motivational Factor), you have one, I have one. Basically, it’s what makes you tick, what makes you do the things you do. It’s used a lot in networking, or sales strategy. Which I used to use when I was in Sales Advertising. You merely have to ask the right questions to find out the PMF. At the same time, I am subtlety building this relationship with my subjects in such a short time. And most of the time, I don’t take myself too seriously before I start shooting. But when I start, everyone knows its focus time and have fun along the way.

MB: How do you judge the success of a shoot? Or more specifically the success of a photograph? Is there something you look for in every photo?

MJ: Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. I have never really thought about it. Let me see. Perhaps it’s how I feel at the end of a shoot. Actually, if I feel a shoot went well, I would look at all the shots that same evening and start working on it. If do not start working on it, I wouldn’t be too excited about the shoot. I would wait to see the images ‘when I feel like it’. In short, if you saw me in a shoot, and I click a shot, and don’t say anything; it means. I don’t know if I like it yet. Success of a shoot is subjective. From a client’s point of view, if they are happy, then it’s ultimately successful. As for my point of view, it takes me at least a year to like or hate my images. I look for that spontaneous feeling that hits me in the heart when I see a great image. A great image makes me imagine.