Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Rick Davis | Photographic Solutions

Interview :: Rick Davis
by Juanita Berge, 1 Sep 2008

This month's Creative Personality is Rick Davis, Currently President Emeritus. Served as Sponsorship Chair, Web Guru, 1st and 2nd Vice President, President and Treasurer since 2002 of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).

PCG: How did you get started in photography?

RD: Im self-taught. I started taking pictures when I was in Viet Nam. When we pulled out of Cambodia there was an awful lot of coverage of the withdrawal. I was really turned on by photo journalism. When we got back out of the field and I was able to get to the PX I bought a Konica, and I just started taking pictures from there. I just learned stuff as I went. I started working in a photo lab once I got out of the army, then built a portfolio. I started photographing fraternity and sorority events up at Penn State and built up quite a business there. I opened a portrait shop in West Chester, built a studio. I guess I did that for almost ten years. Then I shifted over into commercial work in 1987.

PCG: What types of photography do you do?

RD: Im a generalist. I do quite a bit of work in the power sports/motor sports field. Things like tires and motorcycles. Although thats shifting latelyIm doing a little bit more corporate work head shots and that kind of work. It varies. Were shooting food next week.

© Rick Davis : headshot

PCG: Who are some of your more notable clients?

RD: Johnson & Johnson Ive done a ton of work for. Lately its been Pirelli Tire Ive done a lot of stuff with. Orange County Choppers, Arai Helmets. KetelOne (Vodka) we did a whole series of display photography for them. Weve done a lot of work for Sunoco, a lot of work for a local BMW dealer.

PCG: How would you describe your creative approach to a project?

RD: I try to really find out what the actual needs are.  Oftentimes the client is not really aware of what they want it for until you sit down and really get in to the nuts and bolts of it.  So I try to make sure that whatever we’re going to be taking photos of is well thought through as far as the final usage is concerned.  Then you can go ahead and solve all the problems around the shoot.  There are a lot of questions that get asked. 

PCG: What equipment do you use?

RD: Were still using our film equipment as much as we possibly can for digital. Weve got quite an extensive collection of Hasselblad gear, so we use that and we use the Phase One Digital Back(?) with that. For digital SLR we use the Canon System, and right now we just use the 5D, which is an older series. But again, Im not the kind of guy that goes out and buys the newest equipment just because its the newest. We use the Canon strobes a lot on location. I do use some White(?) lighting equipment, the latest stuff. Its very small, very light, very dependable. And then, Ive got a ton of Braun(?) color gear that we use in the studio, and Ill take to locations.

© Rick Davis

PCG: What software do you use?

RD: Adobe CS3 on our Mackintosh systems. We use the CaptureOne software for the phase one when were actually doing capture. I use Bridge a lot, because its the front end and it works real fine for pretty much everything I do. I use iView MediaPro for cataloguing. For database we use PhotoPro.

PCG: Are there any tricks of the trade youd like to pass along?

RD: Well, something simple like the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflectance. Lighting is really what sets us apart from most of our amateur competitors these days. The more you can see the light and pre-visualize the light you want to use to bring out the character and shape of a person or a subject or a product or an idea, thats really the calling card of a professional these days. So elegant, expressive lighting is really the key. Lighting is the bottom line. If you aint lightin it, you aint getting it.

PCG: Tell us about a particularly interesting assignment.

RD: We do most of the photography for OCC (Orange County Choppers.) So you get to meet people like Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. (Tuttle.) Dealing with them on camera and just handling their attitudes and just hanging out with them for a day, while their shooting the video, and shooting around them while theyre doing that was a very interesting thing to do.

PCG: Talk about the field of photography in Philadelphia right now hows it doing?

RD: I know that theres still great creative being done in town. Its still the red-headed step-child, in a lot of ways, to New York City but theres some really great talent, both from the agency side and from the photographic side, in Philadelphia. I suspect that its still pretty vibrant along those narrow corridors. Stock has really taken a lot out of our business over the years. So an awful lot of the regular assignment work that we would see normally has just gone away. It just isnt there. I think its only going to get better. I feel good things about Philadelphia.

PCG: Are there any specialties that are hot right now?

RD: Probably Pharma and lifestyle/workstyle kind of stuff.

PCG: Tell us about ASMP.

RD: ASMP is probably the best thing that Ive ever gotten involved with; both as a general member and also as an active volunteer. When you get heavily involved, you get a lot out of the involvement. Being at the center of things feeds you. But if youre not involved on the Board or as a volunteer or as an officer at the local chapter, just going to meetings is going to give you an awful lot. We dont have the photo labs anymore, we really dont go down to buy equipment as much as we used to, because everything we have is pretty much reusable. So were not out and around as much as we used to be I dont think. So ASMP is a good place to get together with other photographers. The online information, both from national and from our local Philadelphia chapter, is outstanding.

PCG: What advice do you have for someone starting out in the field?

RD: Pretty much the same advice that I gave myself. Immerse yourself. Breathe, eat, sleep photography and related design disciplines. Try and get as much information as you possibly can in your brain. Do not sell yourself short as far as fees. Ask questions of people that you respect. Find a mentor or two. Intern as often as possible, with as many different photographers as you can. Eat, sleep and breathe photographythe photography that you want to do. Follow the thing that you love.

PCG: Looking forward, where would you like to see your career go?

RD: Im embarking on a national campaign. Ive got a good number of years in front of me, I think, to do some great national work. So Im going to try and get my book out to some of the top shops. Ive been working with a consultant and were coming up with three new portfolios and a whole new marketing push on a national level. So well see if I can launch a new career on that end of things. But long term, Im looking to go back into high-end portraiture againmy way. A little bit different, a little bit more idiosyncratic than the normal portrait sitting. So thats the long range plan over all.

PCG: If there were one dream job, what would it be?

RD: Ive done a lot of dream jobs. I guess doing a really good, really good, series of national ads would be really very, very cool. I would enjoy doing that. Automotive would be great. Id like to be hired for the things I do with people. Just do something where I could open up a New Yorker magazine and see it in there. That would be great.

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