Q&A: Paul Calhoun

© Paul Calhoun

Matt Avila: How does your personal life inspire your work?

Paul Calhoun: My personal life inspires my work because I only work on photographic projects that relate the my feelings about issues that I find important, and about which I care directly. Without those feelings, it is impossible for me to produce work that I find valuable or that demands my best effort.

Matt Avila: Do you believe in a process when shooting? What would be your general habits?

Paul Calhoun: The process I use is relatively simple. I choose situations or ideas of interest to me, become as informed as possible about those situations through reading and other forms of research, and in the process of photographing, remain open to ideas, feelings, and visual forms as they present themselves. I tend to work on extended projects centered on themes or locations, and attempt to make photographs that resonate with my impressions, ideas, and thoughts. While shooting I work at being responsive to what is around me, and trust that in the end the photographs will be reflective of who I am.

Matt Avila: Do you try finding new inspirations to photography? Where would you look?

Paul Calhoun: New inspirations come from my evolution as a human being, changes in the world, what other photographers are working on, and a hopefully open response to the people and places I photograph which often provide me with surprises and inspirations I could never have anticipated or imagined.

Matt Avila: Would want your work to be directed at specific population? How do you go about trying to capture and image that would or would not do that?

Paul Calhoun: I don't work with an audience in mind and find the idea of working that way confining and potentially inhibiting. I am a human being, and as such believe that other people someplace somehow will relate to what my interests and concerns are.

© Paul Calhoun

Matt Avila: As a photographer how much of your work, assignments or jobs would you say contributed to your idea or your interests in photography?

Paul Calhoun: I assume this question relates to commercial photography which I rarely, outside of technical challenges, have found satisfying. While I have learned some things working commercially, most often I have felt that I have been little more than a pair of "rented eyes" when doing commercial photography. I consider myself lucky at this point in my life, not to have to pursue that type of work. This comes both as a matter of good fortune and a modest lifestyle.

© Paul Calhoun

Matt Avila: Why did you become a photographer? What are your inspirations in photography?

Paul Calhoun: I came to photography relatively late (about 25) and did so somewhat by accident. I was working as a community/political organizer, and found the work more often than not, unsatisfying on a personal level. At a certain point, the people I was working with needed pictures, I had a camera, and as I proceeded with making some pictures, found photography more engaging and interesting than what seemed to be a series endless meetings filled with many ideas and little action. I stopped in a bookstore at lunch one day, found a small monograph of the work of W. Eugene Smith, and I guess for better or worse, was hooked.

© Paul Calhoun

Paul Calhoun: My inspirations come from photographers and many others involved with a sense of integrity, hard work, and principled motivation, in making positive contributions to their own lives and the lives of others. I hope my life and work are a part of that process.

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