“I always tell people that I shoot “real people” doing “real things”. I don’t like to primp and preen and micro manage my shoots and subjects.”
Hollis Bennett (born in 1981) is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Nashville. He specializes in shooting real people in real situations. The oddities of small town America with all its eccentricities and oddities are constant fodder for the lens.
Hollis Bennett studied photography at the “Art Institute of Colorado” (Denver), but he says:
“Was not that great of an education, but made me want more and get out in the real world and learn more.”
Interview with Hollis Bennett
Hollis, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
A Fuji 35mm point and shoot. I remember taking it to the mountains of Southwest Colorado when I was young. The photos were horrible.
Why did you become a photographer?
I wanted a career I would pour myself into 100% and never regret what it is that I have chosen to define my life. I also get to travel a lot, meet new people and experience things that are not ‘ordinary’.
What does photography mean to you?
It is my life. It is a way for me to communicate far beyond the reach of my voice and the close circles that are familiar to me.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Dan Winters for his portrait work and Andy Anderson for his location and editorial work. Both of these men are firmly in command of their craft and you can tell that there is much more to their photos than a singular moment or a passing instance. Much more.
Your favorite photography quote?
“You can be a professional photographer anywhere there is an internet connection, an airport and a FedEx drop off.”
Essentially, this pushes me to not make excuses about my surroundings limiting my photography. The only limits are the artificial ones I place in my mind.
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working?
I always tell people that I shoot “real people” doing “real things”. I don’t like to primp and preen and micro manage my shoots and subjects. Rather, I try to interact with my subjects and let them tell their own story and make their own photo.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
Constantly be shooting and use your brain more than your shutter finger. Slow yourself down and think about your photos. Ask yourself why a specific frame would make a good image. On the flip side, you can’t over intellectualize it either.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Patience. Dedication. Insomnia.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
Something that makes me think, something that evokes an emotion. Even if I hate a photo, I will remember it longer than just an average photo.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I read constantly. Seriously, I read a book a week, sometimes more. Mostly all non-fiction but I get a lot of inspiration from that. I find myself driving a lot from assignment to assignment and it allows me time to myself without distractions and I can let my brain wonder.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I don’t try and keep up with every new trend and every new fad. If I have a problem and need a solution, then I do some research and that can lead to other things.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Mamiya 7, Mamiya RZ67, Wista 45 field camera, Canon 5D mk2.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
That’s a tough one, I watch a lot of blogs, but FlakPhoto is always solid.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Don’t go to an expensive school. Assist for at least 3 years minimum. Beg, borrow, and steal gear instead of buying it. Also, don’t be a gear and tech aficionado. Most of the photographers I know got into it because they like all the gadgets.