Israelian photographer Zachar Rise has won much admiration for his brilliant studio work. Despite being a talented portrait photographer overall, he is perhaps best known for his contributions to the Fine Art Nude genre. This time however, we will get under skin of the photographer himself. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos at the end of the article.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I am an amateur photographer from Israel, and photography is my hobby. Before I bought my DSLR camera I used a simple point-and-shoot digital camera. I loved taking pictures of my children. But after a while I wanted to try studio work, but unfortunately there were no nice studios available in our small city. So I started to build my own studio in my own attic. I even made soft-boxes from industrial projectors. Very soon I realized that a simple digital camera did not meet my requirements and I upgraded to a more solid SLR. I also equipped my studio with real studio flashes. In parallel, I became interested in taking womens' portraits, and have made some progress in this genre.
Today, taking women's portraits and fine art nude work is my primary direction in photography. Of course I still take pictures of my kids.
My job is not related to my hobby. I am computer programmer and data analyst working for a software company.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
Photography became a serious hobby about 5 years ago. Working as a computer programmer and data analyst was for a long time enough to satisfy my need for creative adrenalin. But at some point, it became a bit boring, and I searched for a different way to express myself. Since I cannot sing, or draw or sculp – photography was the best way to satisfy my need to create art.
Every person must have a way to express himself. Since photography is my hobby and not a source of earnings – I am free to create my own art the way I want it without being dependent or influenced too much by others.
What first attracted you to photography ?
To be honest I have been taking photos since I was in grade school and back then I used only black and white film. I am not that old but during my childhood there was no internet, PCs were just being developed, and there were only 2 channels on TV, so to me, photography was a kind of magic. Back then I used a primitive camera, and I was developing the pictures in a bathroom with a red lamp by myself.
I lost interest in photography after grade school, but the seed remained and sprouted out a few years ago and became a passion.
Could you please describe your overall photographic vision.
It may sound obvious, but I try to focus my attention to the literal meaning of photography as “painting with light”. A photo starts with light. Light can magically turn a photo of a boring subject into an interesting and eye catching image. When photographing a person, light doesn't only define a body or face, but emphisizes the personality and character traits of the person as well. In Fine Art Nude photography especially, lighting is the primary tool for body sculpturing.
Why are you so drawn to Fine Art Nude photography ?
Without a doubt, the naked body has been the primary subject of art since humankind created it. We can find it in the most primitive cave paintings and throughout all the history of art. I don't think I'm exceptional, the nude body is an ultimate universal art language present in all nations throughout all the ages.
What is more important to you, the story behind an image or the technical perfection?
Regarding technical perfection - I would say that for my favorite genres, portrait and nude, technical perfection is not a matter of choice, it is an essential requirement for a succesfull picture. Unlike street photography, in this genre the scenes are mostly staged, you don't have to capture a moment, you create the scene as you want it when you want it. Because of this, there are no excuses not to be technically perfect. Of course we can discuss about what is technical perfection. For example, a picture that is not crispy sharp, can still be technically perfect if it is part of the idea. But the bottom line is : “technical quality is a must”.
Regarding the story – I think in my personal case, I would rather call it “the mood” and not “the story”. Not in all the pictures, but probably in most. This is because I am trying to create an expressive image without building a complex stage, without using accessories or decoration. In most cases there is just me, the model, a simple background and light, not to many ways to create a story, but definitely enough to create the mood. If I succeed in creating a mood, it can be interpreted by the observer as the story and it can be different for everyone. And how important is it? Extremely important! Mood is the spirit that distinguishes a Fine Art Nude picture from a common nude picture.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Succesful nude shots are only possible when the relationship between the photographer and the model is based on full mutual trust and respect. The photographer can not always easily explain in words all the nuances of his idea, so it works even better when there is a silent interaction and this communication requires a kind of “photographic chemestry” between the model and the photographer.
What are your most important advices to a beginner in Fine Art Nude photography and how do you get started ?
The most importand advice : think twice before you start to photograph Nude. Consider that the people around you (your relatives or coworkers) may not like it. Make sure your spouse will accept your interest in this genre, otherwise it can create conflicts..
Always arrange your expectations and shooting conditions with the model in advance, otherwise you can find youself in a situation when you get a great shot but cannot publish it due to model’s disagreement.
I was lucky when I started because of the great model I met spontaneously, beautiful, cooperative and creative. I wish everyone could find such a model when they start.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
I don't like to create idols for myself, I'm afraid it can influence my own style too much. However there are still a couple of photographers I really like. Mark Lagrange for example. Frequently I get inspired by his simple, but very expressive, telling and easily recognizable style. I cannot point to one or two specific photos that have inspired me more than any others, but there are several that I like.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I really want to improve my control over the colors I get in my photos. I always hope to have good colors and sometimes I get them spontaneously, but I'm not always able to reproduce the results I want. I would like to be in full control of this.
I'm also learning ways of taking shallow DOF portraits and want to improve my skills in a technique that I really like.
And of course, I'm always looking for new lighting ideas and techniques.
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I believe I have at least two. This is my favorite photo of my wife, I have it printed on canvas in our living room.
This second one, I consider successful from all perspectives. The mood, the pose, the light and colors are really great, and the model is just gorgeous.