Capturing A Moment: A Conversation with Andrew Werner
('And Just Like That' Windows in NYC)
We live in a world where everyone can be a photographer. A person can touch a button to capture a high-quality image instantly. Yet, this technological innovation has a price, as people begin to see photography as an instantaneous task rather than an art form. My high school photography teacher said the following analogy about the evolution of photographic technology, " When someone takes a photograph using manual mode, it's like making a cake from scratch. To create a masterpiece, the photographer needs to measure the ingredients(incoming light and shutter speed). A person who uses a camera on an automatic setting makes a cake from a box. It's good, but not as satisfying."
Sociologist Malcolm Gladwell says that a person can become a master at anything if they devote ten thousand hours to it. I have a different theory; in addition to time spent honing one's craft, a person becomes a master when the task becomes an extension of that person's thought process. Andrew Werner meets the criteria for Gladwell's and my definition of mastery. His work graces both US and international magazine publications, campaigns for some of the most well known fashion, jewelry, and commercial brands, and can be seen on many celebrity social media accounts
(Image courtesy of Andrew Werner Photography. Image depicts Andrew Werner)
1. What does photography mean to you?
Photography is more than capturing a moment via the touch of a button. Photography is storytelling that transcends language. Whether capturing an event, milestone, inanimate object, or person, photography is the medium and outlet that lets me find and tell the story in everything.
('Laverne Cox by Andrew Werner' )
2. How was your photography evolved from your earliest to most recent work?
When I first started my professional photography journey early on in college, I relied heavily on automatic settings and hoping for the best. I started in the era before high-quality iPhones that automatically make the needed adjustments for a 'perfect' photo. I always knew the image I wanted to create but did not know the technical elements like what different lenses did or how to adjust settings. So, I worked backward to understand how the tools (i.e., cameras and lenses) could help me capture the desired image. My first real work focused on nightlife. While photographing New York City's notorious parties and clubs, I would point, shoot, and hope for the best. One particular night someone mentioned that I was able to successfully capture a lot of Hail Marys. A Hail Mary is when you hold the camera above your head to capture the crowd and hope for the best. As I gained more experience and grew to photograph more of New York society as well as nightlife, I realized the common thread of all my work: I want my images to tell visual stories about relationships -- people to people, people in spaces. Since growing and expanding into a wider field and capturing more than just events, learning my craft, gaining knowledge and experience and planning how to get the best images in any situation have become my guiding principles. Consequently, I no longer rely on Hail Marys photographing my subjects!
(Ethan Woodring by Andrew Werner for KNOW Magazine)
3, How do you know you got "the shot"?
There's a moment when the universe just presents itself to the photographer, and you know you got "the shot". - Andrew Werner
( Alexandra Daddario by Andrew Werner.)
The best photograph of the day is decided by its reaction and impact on the viewer. So the right shot can mean different things to different people. I know I got 'the shot" when there is a wow factor. The wow factor is subjective based on what or who I am photographing. Through my years of work, I realized that photographers develop a sub-conscience instinct that allows them to know when they shot the image they set to capture. So, what makes the differences between the images before and after you get "the shot?" The answer is quite nuanced. The slightest change can make the most significant difference when photographing a subject. For example, when I shoot on set, a seemingly small variable like raising the chin, changing the look in the eyes, or blowing the hair changes the piece's composition. As a result, that slight change creates a beautiful moment that causes the photographer to get "the shot."
(Bethesda Fountain from the Places Without Faces Collection by Andrew Werner)
4. What advice would you give to students and young professionals who want to become photographers?
Photography is all about relationship building. There are two things I want to tell people starting in this industry. The first is the importance of proactiveness. The key is preparation. A photographer needs to plan what kinds of shots they want to create and develop multiple backup plans. This proactive approach gives the photographer the confidence to know that they have the ability and means to capture the image the client desires. When a photographer goes into a shoot unprepared, the project devolves into guerrilla warfare. The second piece of advice is to always be curious. Being curious means not only asking questions but also gaining experience. To gain experience, a person might need to work or assist for free. Working with different photographers exposes a person to new styles, techniques, and potential clients.
(Buglari Serpenti Necklace by Andrew Werner)
5. Is a picture worth 1000 words?
I love this question! It really depends on what your contract says, make sure to consult your agent or a lawyer! A picture can speak a million words or say nothing at all. Sometimes it's not about the words that are said or written but the emotions the image evokes from the viewer. My photographs are often paired with the copy (text) when shooting an editorial. But sometimes, the image needs to be able to connect with something that speaks to the photographer and, hopefully, an audience. My latest series, Places Without Faces, focused on an seemingly empty Manhattan, devoid of people during the Spring of 2020. The series documents iconic landmarks, world famous locations, and neighborhood gems without the teaming pedestrians and tourists that at any other time would be clutting the historic and glorious views. The architecture and buildings tell a story themselves. The still moments captured invite people to 'join me on my adventure' through the streets and feel rather than read what is being seen.
('44th Street & 8th Avenue' from Werner's Places Without Faces series)
6. Who is one person you would love to work with?