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What do you give a man who has done everything? An Interview.

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September 30, 2010 by N@


Bill Hurter started out in photography in 1972 in Washington, DC, where he was a news photographer. He even covered the political scene, including the Watergate hearings. After graduating with a BA in literature from American University in 1972, he completed training at the Brooks Institute of Photography in 1975.

Going on to work at Petersen’s PhotoGraphic magazine, he held practically every job except art director. He has been the owner of his own creative agency, shot stock, and worked assignments (including two and a half years with the L.A. Dodgers). He has been directly involved in photography for the last thirty five years and has seen the revolution in technology. In 1988, Bill was awarded an honorary Masters of Science degree from the Brooks Institute.

In 2007 he was awarded an honorary Masters of Fine Arts degree from Brooks. He has written more than 35 instructional books for professional photographers and is currently the editor of Rangefinder and AfterCapture magazines.

How long have you been picking up a camera?

I didn’t pick up a camera until junior year in college. I got hooked right away and took four classes with Washington Star-News picture editor, Don Moore, who suggested I pursue it further professionally. He helped me land a job with a small news agency in Washington, D.C., Reni Newsphotos, where I held U.S. Senate and White House press cards six weeks after landing the job.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a photographer?

No, not at all. Not until I was almost 20 years old. I wanted to be the great American author… Ernest Hemingway. Oh, well.

What is your speciality as a photographer?

I started out as a photojournalist, but enjoyed the structure of portraiture. After two years as a journo, I went back to school, Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA and majored in Portraiture. It was the absolute right thing to do for me.

When you’re not shooting for clients, what kind of images do you like to shoot?

I like to shoot graphic images and images that have inherent stories. I was an English major in college and enjoyed all aspects of the narrative. When I got into photography, I thought the narrative element should be a part of every picture I took.

You have been an international judge for many years now, how did you first get into judging?

I first started judging here at WPPI, when they didn’t have enough judges to fill a panel. So I would sit in. I realized I knew enough from picture editing for the magazines (Rangefinder and AfterCapture) to be a pretty discerning judge.

Do you think there are extra considerations to be made when entering an International versus Local competition?

Absolutely. One has to discount a lot of one’s own cultural preferences in favor of a more open-minded approach to the images. This is especially true of wedding photography, where customs and rituals are different in every country around the globe.

It’s been said many times that entering a competition is more than just winning. What do you take out of a competition when you enter?

Well, personally I don’t enter contests any more, but I think competitors should not rely on winning or losing for self-justification. It has always been my philosophy that one should enter print competitions to learn and as a quality check, to see how your work stacks up against your peers’ work.

What are the first 3 things you look at in your images when you enter a competition?

Trick question, isn’t it? Impact, impact, and impact. No, seriously, impact. An image has to, in some way, take your breath away. Surprise you or enlighten you. Aside from all the technical details being in tow, the image has to bring you to a higher intellectual or spiritual level by virtue of its existence.

What advice would you offer photographers entering a competition for the first time?

Roll the dice and see how you do. It’s not life or death, it’s a print competition. Your self worth as a person or a photographer is not at stake. But you can learn a hell of a lot from entering. Sometimes all of us are in a bubble of our own making and we need a reality check, usually provided by discerning print judges.

You can find out more about Bill at http://billhurter.com/ or http://billhurter.wordpress.com/

Entries to The 2010 International Aperture Awards close on 15th October.

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2 thoughts on “What do you give a man who has done everything? An Interview.

  1. I agree that impact is the key.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, but only if the viewer stops turning the pages of a publication or clicking ‘next’ on a website to look at it.

  2. JH-Photo says:

    I like this interview very much. I read a lot of Bill Hurters books of weddings, but never find any information with regards who Bill Hurter really is. Thank you for sharing this interview. Best reagrds from germany.

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