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Tim Whitfield: well known American photographer and admirer of România

by Sebastian Vasiu 

Although he lives on the other side of the globe, in America, Tim Whitfield is one of the greatest promoter and admirer of România.
Moreover, he considers himself a “Romarican” since he married his beautiful Romanian wife, Alina. Thus, the photography community in România rather knows Tim as a Romanian photographer.
His friendship with Sorin OniÈ™or increased his already huge love for România and for photography.  He barely resists to come over to visit România to meet again and again his beloved authentic villagers from Bucovina traveling from the Danube Delta to the Black Sea.



Who is the man - Tim Whithfield – behind his photography? Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Tim Whitfield and I have lived in Charleston, South Carolina for all of my 59 years of life. Living on the Atlantic Ocean for this entire period has drawn me to love and appreciate the water, sunrises, sunsets, the beach and all of the sensory feelings that accompany being so close to such a beautiful environment. My business interest have been varied, but include construction, sales, real estate development, photography, owner of a gallery, film producer, actor...too many more to name! I semi-retired seven years ago and started my photography passion six years ago this July. My marriage to my wonderful wife, Alina Iorga Whitfield, is my greatest joy! Together we have traveled and explored so many beautiful places and will continue to do so. I have one son, 33 years old and a grandson that is 5 years old.



Where do your two big passions, photography and Romania come from? What is the connection between them?
My passion for photography was developed in Romania. Prior to falling in love with Alina, I had been coming to Romania since March, 1998 which consisted of 23 trips. It has now reached 37 trips in total, so that my wife's sisters calls me now Nea Marin and I call myself a Romerican! Truly, from the first time I came to beautiful Romania, the people, the culture and the beauty of this country captivated me. It got to the point that my American friends told me that I had to stop talking so much about Romania!  After we were married, we lived in Timisoara for 5 1/2 months and it was during this time, armed with a Sony A100, that I started capturing sunrise and sunset shots from the east and west side balcony in our apartment.  A dear friend in Timisoara, Sorin Popa, encouraged me to continue this passion and walked the city with me to capture anything and everything!  It was during this time that I became Facebook friends with my Romanian brother, Sorin Onisor (member sorin_onisor).  My first workshop with Sorin was the turning point in my photography endeavors.  I can remember asking him with every shot, "What is your ISO, your speed, your aperture?"  He patiently answered every time and I'll never forget the experience he transferred to me on these occasions. Romania has, and always will be, my photographic playground of passion! The beauty and the opportunities are unmatched and the people are the best friends that I know!







You are known as a photographer loving the sun, the sea and nature. Besides the mountains and the countryside with their scenic landscapes and authentic people, you also take action and sport shots (surfing, basketball, etc.)? How do you handle these totally different genres ?
My attraction to capturing action shots came directly from my love of these particular sports. The love of surfing began as an 8 year old when I had my first taste of the sport. The athleticism and skill involved lives inside of me to this day! To have the opportunity to capture these athletes in action takes me to a place that I'll never be able to go to, so I live vicariously through them with my photos. The same with American football, tennis and baseball...all sports that I loved to play and am now unable to participate in. But now I'm able to achieve great enjoyment by being on the field or court capturing the moments for others to share. I started my photography with images of landscapes and authentic Romanian village life. While attempting to diversify my photographic skills, I began shooting the various sports activities mentioned above.  Although quite different from each other, action photography provides a unique opportunity to improve your skills unlike any other experience.  Also, with action photography, it’s difficult to duplicate captures, unheard of these days!  Whether action, landscape or portrait, each provides satisfaction to the soul.




What is your ideal definition of photography? Is it more about technics or art according to your personal opinion?
My ideal definition of photography is to see beyond what is in plain sight. I attribute this "idea" to my Romanian photography friends. When I first started this love, I wondered what placed Romanian photographers aside from others that I knew. Truly, there is some extra sensory mode that is evident in my dear friends in Romania that is quite interesting. I watched a documentary about Romania and the arts and I believe that it defined this reason clearly.  During the communist era in Romania, the black market video tapes were the window to the world with little attention given to the dialog or story line.  Most attention was given to the scenery, the background, the people, the streets, so much so that when the places depicted in the movie scenes were visited, they were exactly the same as remembered. That attention to detail and to see beyond the obvious clearly is evident in the photography of my Romanian friends!  This will also explain my feeling towards technicality and art.  Certainly, the technical aspect must be addressed because nothing happens until that is achieved.  However, art in photography must be first and foremost in every shot.  My thought before every shot is, "How will this move someone emotionally when it is seen?"  Regardless of action, landscape or portrait captures, this should be the primary objective.  As Ansel Adams once stated, and I paraphrase, "Twelve worthy shots a year is considered a good crop".  We should all strive for twelve magnificent shots per year and not settle for six.  As photographers, we know when we've captured something great!




Who are Romanian and foreign photographers that inspired you?  Classics or modern / contemporaries?
A difficult question to answer.  I will stay with contemporary and hopefully not hurt feelings!  I will begin with the fact that it depends on color, black and white, landscape or portrait, action or stills, and the category "other".  The individuals that I draw my inspiration from, in general, are Sorin Onisor (member sorin_onisor), Brian Bielman, Craig Parry, Christine Arrigoni and Tom Jeffries...there are so many others, but these are individuals that capture photos that I dream to duplicate. Imitation is the highest form of flattery!

What is the percentage of editing in a digital photo from your point of view?
The amount of time editing on a capture is a personal variant.  With action shots where the sun is consistently bright, the background rarely changes and you are just trying to capture a rapidly moving person or object, I spend approximately 30 seconds per shot.  If I'm in Romania capturing landscape shots, less than a minute, but only if I did my job correctly before I clicked the shutter. Portraits are a little more personal to me, so I probably spend more time editing these than I should, but no more than 5 minutes.  Again, it depends on your ability to edit and the effect you are trying to achieve.

What photo equipment do you use the most often and why?
The equipment that I use depends on what I'll be shooting.  I have used Canon or Sony A mounts since I began this passion.  For action shots, always my 1 DX with either a 600mm f4.0 or a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6.  With surf photography, 99% the 600mm lens off the beach and if in a boat or jet ski, 70-200mm if the camera is in a water housing and 100-400 if I'm dry.  I've always been in love with the landscape shots the Sony A series captures so I now have a Sony a99II that I'll be trying out this summer in Romania! I've still got my a99 and it has been my "go to" camera with the Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 lens for years...a great combination.  Portrait is my 5DIII with a 50mmL glass or my Sony a99II with an 85mm 1.4 Zeiss.  I do have a Nikon F100 for black and white film!

Is photography perceived as Art in America compared to Europe/Romania.
There is no comparison between how photography is viewed in Europe/Romania and America.  Art, in general, is valuable and appreciated in Europe.  Not to say that art is not appreciated here in the states, but a high premium is placed on painting as an art form versus photography.  To give you an idea, in my hometown of Charleston, there are over 800 individuals that claim to be professional photographers with many of these just having purchased a DSLR a few months ago.  It is a very delicate situation to say the least and I do not see a change in the foreseeable future.

Can you make a living with photography in America?
In short, you cannot live off photography here in the United States, in my opinion.  It does depend on many factors, however.  If your house is paid for, you have no children, retired with no expenses, single and willing to eat bean soup every day, maybe you can survive!  The only friends that I have here that are making it in photography are those that are excellent, not average, wedding photographers or those that are holding workshop adventures.  For instance, we have something here called "MomSwap" which is a group made up of mothers.  Other mothers in the group with point and shoot cameras offer to capture you and your children in a 30 minute session, give you various size prints along with a CD for $25.  It's hard to compete or make money in a situations like these.

What are your photographic projects for the future?
My future projects are whatever comes my way!  We have several trips planned over the next six months, some WTA events, more surfing in Tahiti and so much more.  My gallery, Tara Vis Gallery here in Charleston, just completed it's first year of being open and we will continue with various exhibitions throughout the next year.  Always looking for the next adventure!





I love this country too, splendid article and images to beautiful Romania
Congrats Sebastian and Yvette !! Splendid photos and article !
Great photos, Tim, love what you are doing, your thoughts on making a living with photography is interesting and alarming. With your quality photos you should be making millions....