Ask San Francisco-based nature and fine art photographer Vincent Versace what makes a photograph timeless, and he says it is when the audience cannot guess the time period the image belongs to.
The 52-year-old has authored several books, and won awards, including the Computerworld Smithsonian award and the Shellenberg fine art award. He has also recently been named a photography giant — Nikon’s — brand ambassador for the United States. On his fourth trip to India, to host a photojournalism workshop, he talks about various aspects of photography.
Your workshops deal with street photography. Do you ever end up offending your subjects?
I’ve visited remote villages in Rajasthan and Varanasi; and shot in Delhi and Mumbai, including the Ganesh immersion here. The only advice for street photographers: it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Hit the road, use long lenses and, after shooting a person, apologise. That is also the key to photojournalism.
A majority of your work is in black-and-white. What are the advantages of shooting without colour?
I believe that a subject can hide in colour, but one can never lose the subject in black-and-white. Greyscale frames make strong visual statements. Also, it is crucial to shoot in RAW format.
That way, you can modify everything, except a bad photograph. How important is equipment and post-processing in making a good photograph?
Your photograph is only as good as the equipment you have. Having said that, I believe it’s the spirit and passion that makes a photographer. Post-processing is the digital darkroom. But a photograph cannot look like a frame from a Harry Potter film.
Any other advice for aspiring photographers?
Carry your camera everywhere and shoot every day — that is the only way to develop your signature style. Also, understanding the science (of photography) is crucial. At the same time, one must not get lost in the rules of the craft.