Behind the Lens With Skip Bolen

Behind the Lens With Skip Bolen
Skip Bolen By

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Meet Skip Bolen:
Most of my personal work lately has been photographing jazz and documenting the disappearing historic landscape of old architecture, vintage signs, old water towers, cemeteries and other points of interest in New York City, Los Angeles and across the South primarily in my hometown of New Orleans—a collection of images that embody both a sense of romance and nostalgia.

I lived in New York City years ago working as a junior art director in publishing at Conde Nast and spent many late nights in jazz clubs—these were my formative years of jazz photography. After living and working in NYC for several years when it was finally time to move on, I moved back home to New Orleans to pursue photography and became friends with Herman Leonard who became a huge inspiration. Several years later, I headed out west to Los Angeles and to work as Creative Director of the House of Blues which also offered incredible inside access to photographing musicians both onstage and backstage.

Evenings and weekends I photographed live music in clubs and at concerts and became a contributor for Getty Images and WireImage.com photographing musicians, red carpet events, actors and actresses. After living in Los Angeles for several years, I moved back home to New Orleans in 2006 to photo-document the rebuilding and recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I'm still in New Orleans but travel regularly to New York City and Los Angeles to photograph.

My work is in public and private collections, among them the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and the Louisiana State Museum, and my photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vogue, New York Post, US Weekly, USA Today, Elle, MTV, VH-1, New York Magazine, JazzTimes, DownBeat, Where New Orleans and many others. Also I'm a member of IATSE Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild) and work as a stills photographer in the motion picture and television industry—I was the unit photographer for HBO's season two finale of True Blood and HBO's pilot Treme, by David Simon, here in New Orleans, along with Season 1 and 2 of TNT's Memphis Beat and most recently A+E's Breakout Kings. I'm represented internationally by Getty Images and WireImage.com, and European PressPhoto Agency; and a member of The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and Jazz Journalists Association.

In the past, I shot film for a long time with a Leica R7 and later a Leica R8 with 21mm f/4, 50mm f/1.4, 90mm f/2, 135mm f/2.8 and 180mm f/2.8 Leica lenses. Unfortunately, Leica abandoned the R series at the same time digital photography was really taking off and so I then switched to Canon. Today, I shoot with a Canon EOS-5D Mk II and a Canon EOS 1D Mk IV and my lenses are a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM and a Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM.

I soon plan on getting a Canon EOS 5D Mk III and a Canon EOS 1DX for the low light capabilities—these are essential as a still photographer on movie sets. I use the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home Camera Bag and I'm always checking out new camera bags while still searching for the "perfect" camera bag. For editing—all my computers are Apple—my home computer is an Apple MacPro tower with an Apple 30 inch monitor and my laptop is a MacBook Pro 15 inch. I always shoot RAW and edit in Adobe Bridge, process RAW files in Adobe Bridge and Photoshop and then work with the image in Photoshop. I'm often asked why I use Adobe Photoshop versus Lightroom or Aperture—and my reply is that you have to find what works best for you. While I've used Lightroom and Aperture, I've just found that I work best in Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for my way of working and for my chosen workflow whether I'm renaming and batch-processing 1400 (or more) RAW files at a single time, or working with just a single RAW file.

I'm also a Union 600 still photographer on movie and television sets, so I shoot with a Jacobson Sound Blimp and primarily use a Canon 5D Mk II on set. My photography studio is equipped with Mole-Richardson Hollywood style lights and I use a very old Hollywood style or cinematic style of lighting when I'm shooting in my studio.

Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: Ray Avery, Herman Leonard, and Bill Claxton. Influences: Francis Wolff, Milt Hinton, Edward Steichen, Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, Henry Clarke and Philippe Halsman.


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