A Photography Blog

/rachel hulin

Interviews

A Talk with Tait.

Blast from the past! I ran into Tait Simpson in my inbox the other day, and was very excited to hear his career updates. I’d previously chatted with Mr. Simpson last  year on Earth Day about some work he made in the desert for TOTO High Efficiency toilets. Tait’s an up-and-comer; he’s just made some big moves, both with his photography and with his person. Here- you can hear him tell it. Q&A below…green

So, Tait. Last time we met on the interwebs, you were exhausted in the desert. Tell us a bit about that shoot. Did any jobs or personal inspiration come from it? I found it really beautiful, almost like a desert installation.

toto_behindscenes1It really was like an installation in the desert:  we had about 700 5-gallon water bottles out in this salt flat in Texas.  It was an exciting job, my first real experience shooting an ad campaign.  It turned out that it wouldn’t appear just in print, but they even used the image as a centerpiece in their showroom on Mercer st, blowing it up to about 10′x12′.  Having never seen anything I’ve shot that large it certainly made me want to make my own prints as large as possible. Out of it actually came a second ad for Toto this time with thousands of C batteries on the grass in central park.

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I find the work on your website really beautiful and interesting; from a first look it’s hard to believe this isn’t all personal work- it seems like you meld personal and commercial extraordinarily well. What jobs have you shot, and how has your career progressed to this point? Also- I know so little about you- did you go to school for photo? Tell us about yourself!

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Truth be told a lot of it is personal work.  I never studied still photography in school (I was a philosophy and film student at Vassar College and the University of Edinburgh) so I’ve had to fumble around quite a bit on my own trying to figure out what worked for me. I always thought I wanted to make movies, having grown up with a family in that business, and it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I decided to get out of that industry and instead to pursue stills.

Then in 2007 I made a trip to Iceland to cover the Airwaves festival and made a whole expedition of it.  I took about 2 months off before the festival was to start and set off on my own around the country.  It was a very difficult period but it was during that time that I really felt like I rediscovered (or maybe discovered for the first time) myself as a photographer. I was living in Los Angeles where I was assisting a lot and shooting mostly for local fashion brands, but I wasn’t getting the type of work that allowed me to shoot in a way that was really satisfying.

LA, I felt, was zapping my creative drive, so I decided I needed to come back to New York and re-work my portfolio to pursue this newfound direction. Since I’ve been pushing that work, and it is what landed me the Toto jobs, but it wasn’t until now that I re-imagined the website, the brand and created a clothbound portfolio to tie it all together.

See the two images below. I have this feeling you are drawn to single figures in a large landscape. True? Can you tell us how you made these images (the story behind each, if you will).
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I suppose that I am. I don’t know if it has to do with the vastness of the landscape, but I am drawn to isolating people within the frame.  One of the first things I look for in creating an image is a great location.  It is so fundamental to the success of any picture that sometimes a great space can dictate how the image should work.  The first image is a perfect example of the landscape informing decisions about the image.

Sooo your blog is called 6×6 and you have many square images. Are you a Hassy man? What kind of film do you shoot? Do you have the requisite 5D for commercial work?

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Actually, I’m a Rollei TLR man.  A number of years ago a friend gave me a Yashica D with a busted shutter cocking mechanism.  Since these cameras are purely mechanical and are so simple I figured that maybe I could fix it.  I did and shot with it for quite a long time, falling in love with the square frame.  Eventually I had saved up enough to upgrade and after many, many months of hunting I found a really clean and not astronomically priced Rollei 2.8D from 1956.  It’s a beautifully simple camera and it perfectly suits my way of working. Plus I really love the idea that I never need a battery and if it weren’t for all toxic chemicals involved in processing the film they’d be pretty green.

Occasionally though, I entertain this fantasy that somewhere out there exists or someday will exist an emulsion and development process made from non-toxic, environmentally friendly ingredients.  Anyway, with respect to film as it exists now, I don’t have one film that use exclusively, but I like Kodak 160 or 400 NC for negs or Fuji provia 100 for slides.  If I’m shooting black and white however, it’s Tmax 100 all the way.  I do have a 5d and a 1ds for commercial work, but since these days there’s not as much commercial work to pay for the lab charges of my non-commercial work I’m carrying the digitals around more often.

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I love the new website, and your new portfolio/branding- what’s your dream job- what is on the horizon for you?
To be honest, that gig your buddy Anthony Georgis got in June sounds like my dream job. I however can’t complain as I’m heading back to Iceland in a couple weeks to compete in the Reykjavik half marathon and shoot a piece (both stills and motion) on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.  It is a project that has been germinating in the back of my mind since the first trip.  After that I’ll be throwing myself headfirst into the daunting business of selling the new portfolio.

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More Tait here!

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