Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jess Baumung Interview.

With the post below about that awesome photographer, I decided to take it to the next step and interview this awesome dude! Here is one of the best interviews I have ever done!

Lets start thing off here, and give us a little background of you for those who may not know much about you?
- Well, my full name is Jess Edward Baumung and I am a photographer currently living in Toronto Ontario Canada.

What is your main camera that you use?
- The main camera I use is a Canon 5D with a variety of different lenses depending on what I am shooting.

Why did you get into photography?
- I think I just always liked photography. Even before I knew anything about actually taking photos. I remember when I was younger I used to always sit and look through my parents old photos from when my brothers and sister and I were younger and I loved how every photo had so much of a story behind it. The one thing I always loved was seeing photos where the background was out of focus and I had no idea how to make that happen until a friend showed me a camera her dad owned which was an old manual focus SLR and I was like "Yes!! This is how you do it!" Somehow I managed to go a few more years without actually looking into getting a camera like that for myself until I was in grade 12 and my art teacher lent me one that was sitting in the vault of the high school. I never did give that camera back actually. Dont tell him.

How did you know that photography was right for you?
- Like I said in my last answer, I really think I always appreciated it. It seemed like such a natural thing for me to do once I started actually trying to learn it.

If you didn’t shoot photos, what would you do instead?
- My joke answer would be rot in a gutter with no money, but a serious answer would probably be graphic design or music. I used to play a lot of music and do graphic design stuff before I got into photography. Once I started taking pictures I realized how much I would always suck at playing guitar so I didnt focus on that as much. I kept doing the graphic design stuff for quite a few years actually. I only really stopped doing two years ago now. I found it took too much time away from taking photos.

So, you a digital or film person? And why?
- My first camera was a Canon film SLR, and I used it for a while, but I grew up in a small town with no real way of printing my own photos, so I had to rely on Wal-Mart to do that which made me feel like I had no real control over my pictures. I wasnt really down with that, so I got my parents to buy me a Sony point and shoot digital camera as my gift for graduating high school and I used that for a long time. I was pretty much obsessed with macro photos and rusty walls, so I spent a lot of time doing that for the first little while. I also shot a bit of concert stuff back then, but I was terrible at it. At least I tried though.

After a while with that Sony camera, I found it really limiting, and I read about the new Canon Digital Rebel and found out it was only going to cost me $2000. At the time that was a whole hell of a lot of money, but it was still within my range, so I jumped in head first and went for it. At that point I started to take photography a bit more seriously and I began shooting a lot more concerts whenever I could.

The town I grew up in was 4 hours away from anywhere decent to go see shows, so me and my friends used to drive for four hours to go see bands like Moneen, Alexisonfire, Death By Stereo, Snapcase, Death From Above and many more. I took photos at all those shows and had the best time.

I feel I have strayed away from the original question... Ok, so I guess because of all that I would say I am a digital person, but I have recently started shooting some film and I actually just set up my new neg scanner like 10 minutes before you sent these questions.

You’ve taken photos of some cool people, who is the most fun to work with?
- That's a really hard question to answer because I feel like I usually always have fun taking photos no matter who they are of. I remember how excited I was the day I did a portrait of Sam Beam from Iron and Wine because I think his music is amazing and he was such a quiet and kind person. The day I photographed 50 Cent was also pretty sweet. I remember after I took the photos I was shaking a little bit because I almost couldnt believe it had just happened. Hes a fairly intimidating guy considering how short he is. You would be surprised.

I also love taking pictures of my friend Rob Dyer who runs an organization called Skate 4 Cancer. I had a conversation with him about this the other day actually. I feel like what he is doing is just so incredible and inspiring and everyone just wants to help him in any way they can. My way happens to be with my camera and I really love thinking that even though I may not be able to skateboard across a whole country and change the way hundreds of thousands of kids think about Cancer Awareness, I can at least do the one thing I am good at to help push the one person who can do all those things just a tiny little bit further. I think its amazing how so many people do anything they can to help Rob out. Hes gonna change the world one day man. Just you wait and see.

There are many more people that I'm sure could make this list but it would end up going on and on with these crazy personal reasons for why I had so much fun photographing them.

What drew you towards photography in the music industry?
- I love this question because its so much fun to tell this story.. Ok, so I mentioned that I used to photograph a whole lot of rusty walls and macro stuff.. One day I was searching around on the internet and came across a photographer named Rob Dobi who shot a lot of abandoned buildings. Pretty much rusty wall heaven right there.. Rob Dobi was also an amazing artist and he did a lot of illustration work for a bunch of cool bands. One day on his site he posted some drawings he made as a joke called "How To Be Emo" and I thought they were hilarious. A while later he took them off his site, so I did a google search to try to find them an I came across this page titled "What the heck *is* emo anyway?" and it had this AMAZING photo of a band called Still Life, taken by a guy named Scott Bilby. I pretty much saw that photo and was so blown away that all I wanted to do after that was shoot concerts all the time. I pretty much spent the better part of the next 6 or 7 years doing just that all because of that one photo.

Now, here is the best part of the story. I had tried finding more information on Scott Bilby throughout the years but could never really find that much about him, then one day I randomly searched his name on Facebook and I found someone named Scott Bilby. I got really stoked and sent him a message asking if he was the same guy who took that photo. He messaged me back a few hours later and said he did in fact that that photo and I pretty much went on a whole rant about how he changed my life. I also bought a print of the photo off of him and its framed in my living room right now. Every time I see that photo I remember exactly why I am a photographer. If you google the word EMO, you will find that site and the photo is still up. Go look at it, its amazing.

What is your favourite style of photography to shoot like street, concert, portraits?
- I actually love all three of those types of photography, but I would probably have to say that I enjoy portraits the most these days, only because I find them to be the most challenging. Its really amazing to hang out with someone and connect with them one on one to try to capture something unique in their personality.

What was the hardest thing to overcome when you first starting photography?
Probably the fact that I was always ridiculously shy when I was growing up, and still actually am to this day. Its pretty much the biggest obstacle I have to try to overcome every single day. Most people dont believe me when I tell them that I am that way but its true. I feel like I have definitely come a long way from when I was younger but man, its still a hard time some days.

Got any advice for people who are into photography, and want to progress their hobby further?
- The best thing I could tell anyone would be to not compare yourself to other photographers. Your main goal should only be to take a better photograph than the one you took the day before. If you sit and look at someones website who has been shooting for like 10 years and then look at your own photos and they arent as good, you are just going to get depressed and it makes it really hard to want to try to get better. If your only goal is to outdo yourself, then you will almost always succeed. It takes a lot of time to learn a lot of things with photography. I still feel like I am learning new things and getting better every day. Every single concert, or portrait or whatever else I shoot, my only concern is to come out of that with a better photo than I had before. I honestly think thats the best thing anyone can know about learning photography. Also, ask a lot of questions. I love it when people ask me questions and I always email everyone back no matter how many times the same question may get asked.

Since you do a lot of concert photography, which is your favourite band to shoot?
- Answering a question like this is really hard for me. I think I have a few bands who I will always hold as being my favorite bands of all time, and I have managed to photograph all of those bands at some point over the years, and I think those specific shows stand out more than anything just because of how much I love their music. Some of those bands specifically are Propagandhi, Strike Anywhere, NOFX.

Some other bands that I have photographed that also stand out would be Iron and Wine, Alexisonfire, Misery Signals, Fucked Up, Anti Flag, Billy Talent, Johnny Truant, Weakerthans, Attack In Black, City and Colour, Comeback Kid, Underoath, Every Time I Die, Theset, Rise Against, Moneen, Final Fantasy, AFI, Saint Alvia, and just an intensely long list that would keep going on and on. I like photographing my friends bands a lot, and these days it seems like the number of bands that I have become friends with has grown a lot over the years and the list just keeps getting bigger.

You just had an art show a while ago, how did that go for you?
- The art show went better than I ever could have expected. A few years ago I started working on a series of portraits featuring Toronto musicians and artists and I was fortunate enough to photograph a lot of really amazing people for that project, but I never had time to do anything with them really. Then a few months ago my friend Anna called me up and asked if I wanted to be a part of her Art'd series of art shows at Czehoski and I jumped at the chance to finally show some of the portraits. I even managed to shoot two more portraits for the series a few days before the show which was cool.

The 10 people I ended up showing were Rob Dyer, Dallas Green, Damian Abraham, Johnny Hockin, Eon Sinclair, Leah Miller, Reg Vermue, Owen Pallett, Dave Baksh, and Lights.

What is your favourite lens to use?
- Photo nerd time!! I actually have a semi specific use for each of the six lenses I now own.

I use my Canon 16-35 f2.8L for shooting events and smaller crazier concerts. Mostly small hardcore shows where I am right there in the middle of the action. I tend to always use it with direct flash.

I have a Canon 24-70 f2.8L that I used to use for concerts in slightly larger venues than the 16-35 range can handle. I also prefer to use that lens without a flash so it tends to come out a lot more in venues with better lighting like the Mod Club.

I have a Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS which I use whenever I shoot in bigger venues like the Phoenix, or the Kool Haus where I cant really get close enough to the band to use either of the other two lenses. I think this is the least used lens out of all the ones I own really. I tend to spend a lot more time on the wider end of things.

Next up is a Canon 35mm f1.4L which is one of my two current favorite lenses to use right now. I got this lens a few months ago and its really amazing. I love the 35mm focal length on a full frame camera for shooting behind the scenes documentary type stuff. I have been using it a lot over the past few months. Its great to use when shooting concerts with lighting too dark to really use the f2.8 of the three zoom lenses.

Canon 50mm f1.2L - This is also one of my two current favorite lenses. I use it a lot for portraits and I shot a Cut Copy show with it the other day and it was great. Its so sharp even at f1.2.

The final lens I own is a Canon 85mm f1.8 which is another damn fine lens. I recently decided that I love shooting with primes way more than I like using zooms for many different reasons. I have had this 85mm lens for a few years now and it never fails me. I use it a lot at really low light concerts, and its a great portrait lens.

Outside of photography, what do you enjoy doing?
- I recently started riding a fixed gear bike which is a really fun time. I actually think that there isnt a lot that I do outside of photography. Most of my days revolve around photography in some way. I sometimes collect old photographs, or buy fun things on ebay and craigslist. Its a bit of an addiction actually. I just love getting packages in the mail with fun things in them.

Any last words?
- I dont really know what else there is to say.. I kinda spilled most of my adult life right out there for everyone to fumble through. Right now I am listening to Bleed American by Jimmy Eat world and its great. After this song is done, Im gonna listen to the new NOFX song called The Quitter and thats also going to be a good time.

Anyone you want to thank?
- Thanks to anyone who has ever came up to me at a show, or emailed me, sent me a facebook message, or any other futuristic method of communication, and told me you like my photos. Its really nice to hear that people enjoy what I do considering I have pretty much spent most of my time over the past however many years trying to do the best job I can. I hope one day I can inspire someone to pick up a camera and give it a shot. It may just change your life like it did mine. Maybe in 7 years you will be sitting in your office typing out answers to an interview and you will be like "Wow, this is really awesome"

Thanks for reading this.
-Jess Baumung


Check out more of this dudes work by clicking here: Jess Baumung Photography

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