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Featured Artist: Dan Huiting

The Canary Knows

Even The Canary Knows When is probably the first photo of yours that I ever saw. So how much is "real" and how much is Photo-shopped?
"Everything in the photo was actually there. The set was built outside when it was about 10ºF. Don't worry, the model was in position for only a few minutes and the baby for only a few seconds. We had to move fast! The only thing photoshopped: the wire that held the canary was removed.

 "My philosophy of photography is that it's okay to delete things but I never add an element to the scene. For example, in the  Floating House (below), the frame holding the house was removed."

 So all the fire is real as well? For example, in Money Shredders below?
"Yes. You can see the 'city' burning in the behind the scenes shots."

(Editors note: Dan had to buy air mattresses for the actors laying under the stage on his concrete driveway.)

How long have you been a profession photographer?
"I've been a professional Director and Cinematographer for about 8 years, so that has made quite a natural transition into my type of photography."

How do you “find” your photos?
"I have images that I see in my mind's eye, as well as stories I want to tell, so I start by writing down the ideas. From there I will make a mock-up in Photoshop of the scene I have in mind using google images or photos I take of the props and actors to see if everything in the scene belongs there. Then I pick a date, book my crew, and fill in the blanks on the art and casting side as I go."

 The following photo is titled: Nobody Reads Anymore. (Something most authors feel is all too true.)

So you leverage your contacts and expertise in cinema to setup your photo shoots?
"I couldn't do it without calling in a lot of friends and favors."

Why do you shoot large format?
"I love the way it renders space. I also love the resolution. The level of detail I can get with an 8x10 negative is unparalleled in the digital world."

I remember commenting to you about the cost of 8x10 color film. If I remember correctly, you said something like 'the cost of film is irrelevant compared to everything else.' How much does it cost to setup one of these shots?
"I'm not exactly sure but probably between $3000-$5000. We save money by building the sets in my yard, using volunteers etc."

What is the most challenging aspect of shooting film?
"For 8x10 it's always having enough depth of field, and having enough light to get the depth of field I want so I can have everything in the frame in focus that I want to be in focus. But also having the shutter speed and motion blur I want at the same time. Fire is particularly tricky in that respect because it has a pretty much "set" brightness level, and also it moves. So getting it to look the way I want in relation to other light in the scene can be tough."

 What other formats do you shoot? Do you have a favorite?
"For fine art I primarily shoot 8x10, but I also shoot 4x5 sometimes, mostly for traveling (landscapes and portraits) and I have a 120 6x9 Fuji camera that I take along for snapshots."

Obligatory technical questions:
Favorite camera?
"Other than the standard answer 'The one I have with me at the time' I would say my Cambo Legend 8x10 monorail camera. It's a beast but very precise."

Favorite lens?
"I've been loving my Fujinon 300mm f5.6 CM-W lately."   

Favorite film?
"I usually shoot Portra 400. There are plenty of other films I love for 120, but with 8x10 speed is so important to me, that I don't really shoot anything under 400 speed, which limits my film choices considerably."

 

Below: Sometimes We See What's Coming.

If you could have dinner with any artist in history, who would it be?
"Björk"

 How do you know if a photograph is really good?
"For me if I don't hate it after some time has passed, and I love it after even more time has passed, then chances are it's pretty good."

 Is there any photo that you would wish you could retake (or not take in the first place)?

"Yes. My photo "Even The Canary Knows When" was taken on an AGFA Ansco camera that I bought, which was my first 8x10 camera, and it was a rickety wooden thing, and as a result, the front standard wasn't completely straight up and down (nor was it completely flush with the rear standard in terms of swing) so as a result, there are some parts of the photo that are slightly out of focus that really should be in focus (particularly up towards the ceiling). I wish I would have had my Cambo Legend at that time, and could have avoided that problem. Oh well. I still love the photo!"

What new accessory/innovation does the large format film world need?
"Cheap 8x10 polaroid film with a longer scale that what is currently available from Impossible."

If you could take an all expenses paid two week photo-safari to anywhere, where would you go?
"Namibia'"

 Does your interest in photography impact/affect other aspects of your life?
"Not really. Everything I do is creative in some way, so my work and my hobbies are pretty much one and the same."

 What's your favorite recipe for processing film?
"Well, for c41 there aren't a lot of options, so I buy whatever's cheap. Right now it's the Arista Kits from Freestyle. For Black and White I tray develop my 8x10 with d76 1:1 for most films I shoot (hp5 or Tmax 400) or if I'm feeling super lazy I'll use my Jobo and 3005 Expert Drum, but I prefer the look of tray developing. For 4x5 I use the SP-445 if I have 4 or less films that are black and white, or my Jobo 3010 Expert Drum for color negative or E6."

We have to ask: why not use the SP-445 for color?
"With color, I'm usually processing 10 or more sheets at a time; the Jobo is faster..."

 Do you print in a traditional darkroom?
"Once in a while, yes. I enjoy a good contact print now and then, but it just takes so much time to be honest. I'm not good enough at it to really enjoy it. I much prefer shooting and developing, and then scanning and digitally printing, especially since I mostly work in color."

 Is there a deeper goal to your portraits or do you just like photographing people?
"Yes. Each of my portraits has a lot of symbolism and a story behind the concept. It's all a statement about the current folks in power in this country."

Below: Imagination.

Which of your photos is your favorite?
"I don't have one. I love them all."

Here's the link to Dan's website (updated 10/15): http://www.danhuiting.com/

Complete BIO:

Dan Huiting is an Emmy-winning Director and Cinematographer from Minneapolis, MN. He specializes in music video, documentary, and branded/digital content, as well as aerial footage and motion-controlled time lapses. He is the Senior Producer of "City of Music" on Pitchfork. He has worked with Bon Iver, The National, Robyn, Andrew Bird, Kathleen Edwards, Destroyer, Local Natives, Arcade Fire, Colin Stetson, Bill Fay, Volcano Choir, P.O.S, Poliça, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Trampled By Turtles, The Staves, among others.He has lensed productions for PBS affiliates Twin Cities Public Television and Pioneer Public Television as Director of Photography that have won a total of 5 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards. He directed and edited a one-hour live concert special for Trampled By Turtles called "Live at First Avenue," which was broadcast on the Palladia channel and also released on DVD. He was awarded an RIAA-certified gold record for his video work on the Bon Iver album "Bon Iver, Bon Iver."


He was the juror for the music video portion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival three years running, from 2012-2014.  He has done extensive charity work in Haiti including films for Artists For Peace and Justice (a charity run by Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis and also includes Ben Stiller, Olivia Wilde, Gerard Butler, and Madeleine Stowe) and also lensed a 30-minute documentary for Pioneer Public Television about an orphanage in Cap-Haitien, Haiti that won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award.

This current body of work, entitled Dear Leader, is an opaque "open letter" of sorts to the leadership of this country. If you want to hear more about the meanings of each photograph, I would be happy to expound.



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