CD: You live in Phoenix, far from the epicenter and bubble of photography known as New York City. The mid-day summer sun of Arizona is hard, direct and brutal. How has this light influenced your distinctive lighting style?
Blair Bunting: The light in AZ is definitely tough to work around, but in my beginning years of learning photography, it was all I knew. I feel like whenever we go to a different city we see the world differently than those that live there. Objects and light that mystifies some is seen as commonplace to others and therefore taken for granted. Whether or not this has influenced my lighting style, I don’t know. However, I believe that photography should represent one’s quest for knowledge of light, and hard light is one of light’s many facets.
CD: From our conversations in the past, you’ve mentioned a few favorite lenses and how you try many to find the perfect lens for you. Lead me through your process of trying out lenses and tell me what you are looking for in that one perfect lens.
Blair Bunting: Lenses are one part of my many obsessions with photography. When I was in college I would sit in class and draw out diagrams of lenses and calculate nodal points and objective element size for specific apertures to exist. The one downside to all this is that I was insanely critical of the glass and sometimes it blocked me from seeing the image as a whole. For the longest time I shot primes, as they represent clarity through simplicity. I would buy a copy and shoot a ton with it and as soon as I felt there was any diminished performance, I would sell it. Truthfully, I believe that most of this was a mental thing, but any lack of confidence in gear can significantly impact a photographer.
CD: You’re known for your distinctive style of hard lighting for your portraits and they always work. How do you visualize a shot that will require this approach and on the production side; the styling, retouching and make-up to bring it all together?
Blair Bunting: I think this question would be tough to answer in a book, but I will try my best.
I believe that the ability to visualize an image exists in everyone. Perhaps that is the idea that is creativity, but definition resides within the individual. What must exist to perform at a higher level of photography is the ability to visualize an image within the confines of the equipment. All too often do I visualize a situation rather than an image. We see the subject we want to capture, but lose perspective of the picture they exist in. When that happens, it often locks up the photographer on set, and only works to the detriment of the final piece. My approach is one that views only the shot. Maybe this leaves me cold to the emotion of the situation, but I have to see what is possible and from there approach it within the parameters that exist in lighting, angle, perspective, retouching and make-up.
CD: In addition to your portrait work, you have a love of fast and cars. How do you approach photographing and lighting an exotic automobile so that is carries your distinctive style?
Blair Bunting: Photographing cars was something that I never wanted to do for a job. Not because I lack respect for it as a career, but because I have always had a passion for cars and wanted it to be my escape from work. There was something about the lines and curves of a car that made photographing them comfortable. It was like having a conversation with the designer, and lighting the details was the compliment to a creation well done.
The approach that I took was one of smooth light to compliment form. I would often paint the cars with very close attention paid to shoulder line. Often a car shooter will default to throwing a 30 foot softbox over head to create the beautiful soft design line. However, I felt that this sometimes washed the design away as the inverse square law would say that light at the roof to the tire is not held equal due to fall off. I worry that this only shows a glimpse into my mind’s twisted obsession with light, healthy?… probably not.
CD: We both share a love of unusual watches. How did you become interested in watches and why?
Blair Bunting: Watches are definitely an obsession of mine. They are the ultimate expression of art following function in my eyes, and I have a profound respect for the time and passion it takes to make them.
Truth be told, I can’t actually read time on a watch all that well because of dyslexia. Which only makes it more bizarre that I have become known for what I wear on my wrist as much as who I have photographed lately.
What started it all was research into what time was. I was in awe that man created the concept of a second, and from there even more shocked that we could create a devise that would measure a theoretical boundary. It is beautiful. From there I started looking at timepieces for not only what they looked like, but what they represent.
These past few weeks have been very humbling to me, as I have been invited to become an ambassador to Maurice Lacroix, by far my favorite watch brand, and the maker of the very first timepiece I bought.
CD: Nikon sponsors you and you have given presentations for them. How did that come about and what is it like to work hand-in-hand with a camera manufacturer?
Blair Bunting: One of the great honors I have received from this career came the day that Nikon called me. The call was an introduction to their team and began a line of communication that would eventually lead to me speaking for them. I can still remember getting off the phone and thinking, “damn, these guys really love photography.” Now I know that they are in the photographic business, but the passion they have towards photography is absolutely awesome. On many occasions, I will be on set and call them to ask questions, and they are always there to help. I genuinely believe in their gear and would speak highly of it even if there wasn’t a relationship with them. Which leave me truly grateful to be a part of such a great team of people.