Patrick Fox, photographer for Sandy Stone’s new book, Fabric Remix, sat down with us to talk photography, flying, and what it was like to work on this beautiful book. Check out Patrick’s portfolio and blog for more of his photography and high-flying adventures.
How and when did you get started as a photographer?
I have always had an interest in photography. When I was a child, my father flew to Japan frequently and he would always bring back cameras. When I was 13, I got a paper route and saved up to buy a nice SLR camera. As a high school freshman, I was encouraged to apply for—and got—a photographer spot on my high school newspaper. I went on to get a BA degree in photography from Brooks Institute. After college I moved from California to Minneapolis and assisted in photography for a year. I started my own business in the late 80′s, and have been very fortunate to work for great clients both locally and nationally.
When did you start flying, and what kind of planes do you have?
I got my pilot’s license in 1990. My father was a pilot for the airlines, and I have always loved to fly. I have over 1300 hours flying, and I still enjoy learning something new and the adventures it brings. I own two airplanes. One is a Piper Supercub, and the other is a Cessna Skywagon. Both airplanes are called tail draggers, which have an older style of landing gear. Instead of a nose wheel they have a tail wheel in the rear. That allows for both planes to land on grass or other unimproved landing areas. The Supercub has skis on it for winter lake landings—a real bonus in the Northland! The Skywagon is a full instrument airplane, so it can be flown in most weather conditions.
What has been your most exciting experience as a pilot so far?
By far, it was when my girlfriend and I flew to Alaska in the summer of 2003. We flew the Supercub, and logged 86 hours round-trip. The Supercub is a two-person tandem seat airplane which takes off and lands in short distances, which makes it ideal for the Alaska bush. We flew via Seattle, Victoria BC, and Whitehorse YT to Alaska. Flying over the Alaska Highway at an altitude of 300 feet during bad weather and flying at 10,000 feet in clear weather over the glaciers of Mount McKinley-Denali was incredible. I tell everyone, go to Alaska, it doesn’t matter how you go there, but go.
What did you enjoy about working on Fabric Remix?
Fabric Remix is my third book, and working on books is always fun for me. I really enjoy working with the writer and having the artistic freedom to create images as I see them. With commercial work, you are selling something for a client. In editorial work, you have more freedom to share your unique point of view and make a statement. Sandy has a great vision, and working with her was fantastic.
Who was the stylist for this book, and what was your work flow like together?
The stylist for Fabric Remix was Lisa Evidon. Lisa and I have worked together for many years. We met early on in our careers when I hired her to work with me at a local department store where I directed ad photography. Lisa was one of the first stylists I worked with that could clearly articulate her vision. Because we have worked together for so long, we are able to work very efficiently together. The role of the stylist in any major production is extremely important. Lisa has an intimate understanding of the creative/photography process. Lisa helped Sandy translate her product pieces so that the photography would capture the detail and feeling of her work. Lisa worked with Sandy and me to plan out the flow of the shots, props, content, and camera angles.
The projects in Fabric Remix are all shot in beautiful scenes that seem perfect for each project. What was considered when choosing the right backdrops and props for this book?
Sandy’s own home was the backdrop for most of the photography. After the book was assigned, Sandy, Lisa, and I met several times to discuss the projects that Sandy wanted to show and where they might work best. We considered other locations, but we landed on Sandy’s house. Having her studio in the home worked as a great backdrop. Lisa and Sandy made a few trips to an antiques store where Sandy has a booth and pulled props that complimented the photographs.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a serious product photographer?
Three things. Take pictures, take pictures, and take some more pictures. I’ve seen successful commercial photographers who graduated from the school of hard knocks and others who have Master’s Degrees. There are no exams that qualify you as a successful photographer. One thing that is overlooked by many photographers is an understanding of the business of photography. You need to run a good business to stay in the game. I’ve known many great photographers who were not commercially successful because they lacked good business skills. When choosing a school, be careful of accumulating debt. I see a lot of people coming out of college with big dreams and bigger debt. It can be a real challenge to get your career going with a large debt load.
Going to a good college or art school can certainly be a good thing for someone who wants to be a photographer, but it is not the only route. I like the idea of being a well-rounded, educated, and visual person. Being able to see things, communicate, and engage the world are really important skills.
What advice would you give to needleartists who want to take decent photographs of their work?
I would try to find an aspiring photographer who has a style of photography that you like and is looking to develop or expand their portfolio. Work with them and develop a story or an assignment. You both get something from that. The other option is to create the images yourself. The craft of photography has gotten much easier with technology. One can purchase a good digital SLR camera for a reasonable price. With some good lenses and a strong desire, you could create some great images. With one exception, I created all the images for Fabric Remix with available light. With a good digital camera it’s inexpensive to work on your images. Once the camera is purchased, it’s just a matter of your time. Photoshop skills are a must.