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Photo Journalist Enid Farber
Enid Farber     Photo by Fedner LaChapelle
Photograph by Fedner LaChapelle

(August, 2004) -  New York based photo journalist Enid Farber began photographing musicians in 1979.  Farber has received numerous awards for her work in jazz photography, including the 2002 Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award, and the Jazz Journalists Association's Best Photo of the Year Award in 2002.  If you have ever browsed a collection of jazz musician photos you have likely been exposed to Farber's work.

This quote best illustrates Farber's passion for photography --

"The camera is my instrument -- In the best way that I can, I pay tribute to the musical artist, translating my love for the sounds they create into a photographic image which enables me to relive the experience long after the event.  This way I have also been allowed to participate, and I, too, can play the music."  -Enid Farber

       - Mark D McKinley     [Mark's Online Music Source]


The Interview

mogswebsite.com:  As a self-taught photographer -- what experience provided inspiration that photography would become your career?

Enid Farber:  The camera became "my instrument" instantly when I attained my first real one.  In my earliest years logic dictated that either the violin or the pen would be my instrument of choice.  But the discipline and focus those demanded were perhaps too much for me during that time in my life.  I went to college in 1974, at this time my cousin Robert Farber was emerging rapidly as a world renowned photographer mostly shooting beauties and highly stylized nudes.  A touch of envy and fascination sparked my imagination and spoke to me.  I had always been a voracious "snapper" with the least dazzling of camera technologies. Having a cousin albeit not within earshot, creating with that tool sent just the right amount of jolts and curiosity through me to prompt me to take my own artistic expression seriously.

mogswebsite.com:  Capturing a feeling verses capturing an expression -- is there a difference? Explain.

Enid Farber:  I would say that they are one in the same.  The expression notated by my camera is either a direct reflection of my emotion upon first sight of the subject which is usually engaged in life or is a part of nature, both revealing something of beauty, delight or surprise.  So my joy of observation is what I am responding to and it always involves some expression or implied feeling.

mogswebsite.com:  What should a photograph say about the person photographed?

Enid Farber:  It should provide a momentary memory, but if the person photographed wants to portray their spirit the photographer must reveal theirs in order to elicit a portion of that uniqueness.  Yet I don't believe any photo or any photographer wields that much power to reveal the whole mystery of any human.  We should never know all, and I am a firm believer that not everything is meant to have an answer.  Religion dictates that we seek THE answer, the big mystery and I can only wonder why.

mogswebsite.com:  How important is the use of filters in your photography?

Enid Farber:  For me not at all, never relied much on filters with my work and now with digital the white balance pretty much covers the lighting variations.  I use a warming filter once in a while to balance flash with tungsten or stage lighting.  UV filters on the lenses for protection is always a given but as far as anything for effects, I'm pretty straightforward and simplistic in my approach.  I have a few diffusion filters that I use on rare occasions.

mogswebsite.com:  Your jazz photography has won several awards -- what's the attraction to jazz that led you to choose it as a focal?

Enid Farber:  Jazz and photography were like the song my father use to sing which by the way, I never really bought!  "Love and marriage go together like a baby and a carriage".  But instead of marriage and babies I chose jazz and photography, not at all strange bedfellows.  Jazz which was the music that I couldn't resist and is without a doubt the most elegant music visually and audibly, was a perfect union with photography.  Jazz, suiting my rebellious nature, (although recently married for the first time), is analogous to my philosophy of bucking tradition, finding it out of character to be assigned a label, to fit into a pre-determined role.  Like jazz I need to feel free, unrestricted, my heart beating my own peculiar tunes.

mogswebsite.com:  Aside from jazz photography -- expound on a subject that also inspires your artist's eye.

Enid Farber:  Oh my GOD, so many, too many.  Of course my musical photos go beyond the precise idiom of jazz but do not stray afar.  Such as music defined as global rhythms, reggae, African and todos de Latino musica.  Children catch my eye and allow me to enter their sweet, silly little universes and act ever so silly myself while adding their images to my vast archives of people, places and things.  But if all my dreams could come true, I would be shooting to my heart's content people in places I can barely imagine.  Transport me to someone else's parcel of the world and I will find the joy inherent within.  I value photos that are joyful in places that normally are shown in shades of sad and that do not exploit misery.  In my limited travels to places such as South Africa, Jamaica and Croatia, my eye has always found that less truly is more when it comes to the generosity of the people and the gratitude they show.

mogswebsite.com:  Digital photography verses the more traditional formats -- what are the lesser known advantages of current digital technology?

Enid Farber:  Digital is simply advantageous in 2 major respects for me.  One is the cost of post -- production (although time is spent substantially more and therefore if time is money then for some it is equivalent.)  It allows me to manage my photos from start to finish without a 2nd party deciding how my results should look.  Second is having one camera that serves as unlimited combinations of what varieties of film use to be.  I.E., I can change the light balances and ISO (speed rating) to suit the occasion and if the occasion would have warranted two or more types of film I can go back and forth from frame to frame if necessary within one camera body only!   So if in a low light situation (as most of my live shoots are) I can implement higher ISO's with the white balance set for stage lighting and if permitted and acceptable I can change to a flash setting at a lower speed to back it up or just to have a different look.

One more thing -- my camera bag is substantially lighter a definite advantage for my overstressed physique!

mogswebsite.com: Explain why black & white photography will always remain an important aspect of photo journalism.

Enid Farber:  Black and white is in essence "dark and light". Digital cannot for me measure up to the standards of traditional black and white.  First of all when I have black and white film in my camera I actually see in black and white.  My mind just naturally sees the world in those values.  And for those who are new to this craft and serious about devoting their lives to this art, I feel shooting black and white and thinking black and white is a very vital exercise and part of the development of their artistic vision.

mogswebsite.com:  If an art gallery contracted you to create a [10 photo] slide presentation about water -- their contract limiting you to no more than 15 total exposures -- where would your travels take you? How would you approach such a project?

Enid Farber:  This question is too tricky, provoking too many fantasies and desires.  I want to go everywhere, see everything, meet everyone and jump in every possible swimming pool on the planet and swim at least 10 laps in each pool at least once!  I really do have a bit of an obsession with swimming pools so I think before my body cannot handle the demands of photography and swimming anymore I would like to find the top 10 best lap swimming pools in the world and create some sort of artistic statement reflecting the inner souls of these sparkling splendors.  I am probably trying to slip back into my mother's womb for the one type of comfort that I'll never find in this lifetime.  I would have to approach this with the same kind of sensitivity and passion that I give to the music.  I would submerge myself totally in this project and my deepest heartfelt respect to the subject would also be a necessary component.  Perhaps not a gallery but the Travel Channel is searching for me unbeknownst to them or me!

Enid Farber  --  Pool Baby
Enid "Pool Baby" Farber                                              Photo credit - Farber's Dad

mogswebsite.com:  Put into words a photo essay you've done that left you more enriched as a person.

Enid Farber:  I'm not a "photo essay" photographer per se.  If you would count my travel adventures to 4 or 5 different countries photo essays unto themselves then that would have to be the answer.  Each of those, South Africa, Croatia/ Slovenia, Jamaica and Barbados gave me such satisfaction, having waited far beyond my expected years to have these opportunities.  My absolute ecstasy of finally reaching places unexplored with my camera expanded my lungs, my heart and my understanding of humanity and how lucky are the people born upon the land called the United States of America.  It also made me feel somewhat angry about how much we have and how spoiled we are and how much we take it all for granted, and how absolutely painfully imbalanced the world's resources are.  And how unfair it seems that just because one was born on a soil not called the United States of America, that they have bore most of the suffering while we exploit the planet.  I married a man of Mexican descent who is here only because he has no real choice and that is called survival of the fittest of the highest order.  I have not traveled to Mexico yet but if and when I ever do it won't be to partake in some "Girls Gone Wild" resort adventure, it will be to further attempt understanding this imbalance.  If through my photos I could erase some of the contempt that some Americans feel for immigrants that were just not as lucky as them to have been born on this land, then I would have accomplished something.

mogswebsite.com:  What advice would you offer an aspiring photographer?

Enid Farber:  As anyone who has struggled in any profession would advise, NEVER GIVE UP!  NEVER GIVE IN, NEVER say NEVER, NEVER say DIE.  But first of all you must need this with all your soul and might, you must need to take pictures, to create beauty and to leave to this world more than you arrived with.  You must be willing to do this at any cost, and you cannot expect the monetary rewards to be as great or equivalent to these needs.  If you are really patient and really true to yourself and never let anyone defeat your will then perhaps if you are one of the truly blessed then the monetary rewards will reflect your talent.  But that is not always necessarily the way it works out and this does NOT mean that you are not worthy.  It just means that you need to hang on a little or a lot longer and even if that means that you will not be around to see how valuable your contributions have been that you are devoted to the long term and not looking for some quick fix road to fame and fortune and that your ego does not hinder your best efforts along the way.  But not least of all, and most obvious, practice makes perfect, shoot without reservation or hesitation and keep the faith!

(C) 2004 Mark's Online Music Source


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