Anne Darling Photography

An Interview with Herman Krieger
Oregon-based Documentary Photographer

Herman Krieger is a photographer who deserves to be known better. I asked him if he would like to be interviewed so that I could share his work and his musings with you, my visitors, and the transcript is given below. If you would like to see more photographs by Herman Krieger, please be sure to check out his website - there are some real gems there! The link is at the bottom of the page.

Me: Thanks for agreeing to this interview Herman! First of all, can you tell us about how you came to rediscover photography in 1990?

Herman: When I worked in photography for seven years in the 1940s, photography was considered a craft or trade rather than a fine art. I printed commercial and press photos on a production basis. The prints had be made with high quality, with little waste of material or time. The negatives were anything from 4x5 to 8x10, and aerial rolls. Photography was a job, and never a hobby. For a while, I also worked free lance for two weekly newspapers in Detroit. After I learned a better way to make a living, I only used a camera (with Kodakchrome) when on vacation with the family.

After retiring in 1990, I started taking computer science courses in the University of Oregon. I saw that photography was offered in the art department, and went to see what it was about. I switched to the Department of Fine Arts, and received a BFA in 1994. I didn't learn anything new about photo techniques. The value of the courses was learning to set a goal for a cohesive set of photographs, and prepare them for an exhibition. Afterwards I was a member of a local photo group, PhotoZone Galleries, gave an incentive to take photos for an exhibition. Having my own website also gave an incentive to continue making photo essays.

a horse having his teeth inspected by the veterinary surgeon from a photo essay by herman krieger
Horse Opera(tion): from A Day in the Life of a Mobile Veterinarian by Herman Krieger

Me: Can you tell us about your method of working? Do you only work in black and white (monochrome)? Have you embraced digital photography or do you always use film? Do you use a large format camera?

Herman: I still use a film camera, but now I scan the black and white negatives and handle them with Photoshop, rather than print them. For outdoor photos, I prefer using a medium format camera that takes 8-10 pictures per roll. For photo essays, a cardinal rule is to take many photos. However, I only take one or two photos at a time. I spend more time looking at a scene than in making exposures. This saves a lot of time in editing, and I've found that most often the first exposure I make is the best one. When the photo essay concerned people on the move or in poorly lit areas, I used a 35 mm camera, such as the Leica. An objection I have to using a digital camera is that it is too easy to click away without forcing me to take time to study the scene. I only carry a camera when I am working on a particular theme. I don't take photos at random, there has to be a specific purpose for the photo. I don't print any photos now. When I need prints for an exhibition, I have them made at Costco or Wal-mart.

a cat being weighed by the local veterinary surgeon from a photo essay by herman krieger
CAT Scan: from A Day in the Life of a Mobile Veterinarian by Herman Krieger

Me: Can you tell us how you came to have such an unerring eye for great compositions? Does it come naturally to you or did you study compositional technique?

Herman: The lessons I had in composition was in two required art classes (composition in black and white, and composition in color), while studing math at the University Of California in Berkeley. The main principle that I remember was to fill the frame. When I worked as photo printer, I had to know how to judiciously crop a photo. Other than that, I may have been influenced by Life magazine. In composing a photo for black and white, I think about the lines. With color, I would think in terms of areas. For me, photos must have both content and composition. Pictorial photographers seem to concentrate on composition. Some of the best of them, like Ansel Adams were also musicians. But having a tin ear, most water falls sound and look alike to me. The captions I add to photos are meant to add to the content of the images.

portrait of frances o'brien from the blue river anthology photo essay
Reminiscing (Frances O'Brien, died 1995): from Blue River Anthology by Herman Krieger

Me: Do you do much post processing (darkroom or photo editor) or do you try to leave the image more or less as it was when you pressed the shutter release?

Herman: I use Photoshop to process the scanned negatives. The manipulation of the image is pretty much the same that I would do if I were printing the photos in a darkroom. That is, cropping, burning in, and dodging. Correcting a perspective with Photoshop is much easier than with tilting an easel under an enlarger. Photoshop allows reformatting photos depending on whether they are destined for a website, or to be printed. When I started my website, most modems were rather slow. I had to format the photos so they could be downloaded as quickly as possible. Now with DSL or cable, it is not so important.

Me: Can you tell us what project you are working on at the moment?

Herman: I am planning a trip to Cuba in the near future with a small group of photographers. I expect to spend all my time wandering around Havana.

Me: Sounds exciting! I look forward to seeing the fruits of your trip, and just want to say thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

photographic portrait of ed stanley from the blue river anthology photo essay
Ed Stanley: from Blue River Anthology by Herman Krieger

You can see more photographs by Herman Krieger at his website.

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