An Interview With Eric Meola; Passion, Belief, & Risk Page 2

SB: It sounds like you were becoming more intuitive and less intellectual about your shooting. Do you think that great photographs are more likely to come from having an intuitive connection to the subject?

EM: I think it's different for different people, both for the viewers and the photographer. Take Cartier-Bresson, who always went for the decisive moment. I think only he would know when the decisive moment was. It could be different for you or for me. I don't have any regrets about using the intellectual approach when it worked, but it reached the point where it wasn't working for me anymore. I was ready to make that change. It didn't matter that 50 percent of the images might be blurred or unsharp or whatever because of a lack of technique, I had to do it. I had to see what it looked like.


SB: When did you begin to shoot digitally?

EM: I started shooting digitally about three years ago, my first digital camera was the Canon EOS-1Ds. Until recently I didn't think that the quality was there. It's really been the evolution of three things--the computers, the software, and the cameras--that allowed me to finally move into it. I don't shoot film anymore. The workflow was the bear of the transition, not the cameras or the other technology. It also brought in a huge change in how you could catalog your work. I've been scanning since the late '80s because I realized everything was going to transition to electronic submission. But back then computers weren't powerful enough.

SB: Could you describe your typical workflow from shooting to finished images?

EM: I shoot raw with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. I preview on the back of the camera and I tend to leave most of the editing until later on. Up until recently I've been using Photoshop CS2 but will be trying Mac's Aperture.

SB: Has shooting digitally changed your vision or do you see it as a different tool to accomplish what you would have done yourself anyway?

EM: I don't know that it's changed my vision. I do think it's an incredible tool. I can experiment a lot more with digital. I shoot things that I might not normally photograph or think might not make a good picture. I can always edit it or just erase the images. In that sense it has changed the way I shoot.

SB: Early in your career you shot images as the start of an enhancement process, using duping or other techniques to intensify color or the graphic quality of the image.

EM: Yes, but I don't feel that way at all now. I try to process the image to capture what I saw with my mind's eye. Now that's obviously not always going to agree with what was really out there, but then, what was really out there?

Fire Eater

SB: Was that what you were doing with film 30 years ago?

EM: No. Thirty years ago I was intellectualizing more, thinking about multiple exposing or radically altering with duping later to change the image. Now I tend to do what I see in my mind's eye but it's a lot more realistic. If you were somehow able to show the original subject next to my finished images 30 years ago, compared to the way I'm shooting now, most people would see my current work as more natural and normal.

SB: You have been working with Photoshop since the very beginning, scanning film before you began shooting digitally.

EM: I've been using Photoshop since the early '90s but use it as a tool to work with my images, as opposed to altering them. It all comes down to who we are as photographers and what we are trying to do with our images. I'm very careful about how I process my images both from a technical standpoint and with an understanding of what the image looked like originally.

SB: You were a success for many years in the advertising field but the whole business of photography is changing. What do you see as the good and bad from those changes?

EM: A lot of good new photographers aren't getting an opportunity to make a living. I made my reputation in advertising photography. But only 2 percent of my time was spent making photographs; 98 percent of my time was spent bidding, putting the job together, and dealing with all the personalities to make everyone happy. In the end you can't make everyone happy and I didn't become a photographer to spend only 2 percent of my time making images.

SB: What kind of advice would you give to photographers who are trying to establish themselves today?

EM: It always comes back to my original belief of having passion. You can't just generate passion; you've really got to have it from the beginning. You need to believe in yourself and in your projects. Very early in your career you need to shoot things that you believe in, things that you really want to shoot. You need to take risks. Don't wait for the phone to ring. Success is only going to happen if you are out there really working to make it happen.

In 2004 Eric Meola's first book, "Last Places on Earth," was published. Sponsored by Eastman Kodak, it is an exploration of the disappearing beauty of various cultures, ceremonies, and wildlife in many remote areas of the world at the end of the 20th century. Meola is also a popular speaker in the Canon "Explorers of Light" program of distinguished photographers. His website is

Larry Berman and Chris Maher are photographers, writers, and web designers, specializing in image intensive photography sites. For more information visit their websites at: and