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The Photo Life Podcast: An Interview with Paul Gero

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In this week’s episode, we speak with Paul Gero about the importance of knowing yourself as a photographer before getting to know your client as well as his year-long project focusing on the the most important and often overlooked subjects in his life.

About Paul Gero

photographer paul f gero

Photographer Paul F. Gero loves to tell stories with photographs and has been since picking up a camera as a kid growing up in Wisconsin.

His daily journalism career spanned nearly 20 years and he worked for both The Chicago Tribune and The Arizona Republic (where he has has photographed Presidents, politicians, star athletes, business executives and regular folks) before launching Paul F. Gero Photography in 2002.

Paul now photographs commissioned events and portraits for clients in California and around the world.

His work has also been published in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Time, People, and Fortune — his editorial background shaped his distinctive approach to weddings and portrait photography.

He is the author of the book Digital Wedding Photography and teaches photography courses online at betterphoto.com and will be teaching a seminar this coming May (2011) at the MARS school in Cape May, NJ.

Paul and his wife Nicki along with their daughter Kate and son Matthew, make their home in Ladera Ranch, CA where they have lived since 2003. Gero Family photo courtesy of Utah photographer Jonathan Canlas. © Jonathan Canlas Photography, 2010.

Photos below courtesy of Paul F. Gero.

"Beauty in the Beasts" photo by Paul F. Gero

“Beauty and The Beasts” My daughter Kate in her Belle Dress (handmade by her Granny Moira from S. Africa) at a Game Park owned by friends outside of Durban, South Africa in March. To me this is the photo that will stand the test of time and will remind me of Kate and this period in her life. We spent the month of March visiting family there and the photo was originally posted on my One Camera. One Lens. One Photo a Day. blog.

"The Dip" wedding reception photography by Paul F. Gero

The Dip.

This was one of my first weddings and it’s still one of my all-time favorite images.

It encapsulates everything that I want clients to know about the work — that it’s spontaneous and real and a fleeting moment. Jennifer went on the dance floor with her Dad and she’s the third daughter in the family that has gotten married, so you could say Dad was an
old hand at this part of the day. He was joyous and light on his feet and I just had this sense that something was going to happen. A photographer I have always admired, Sam Abell, said that you could always tell when you were in the presence of a moment, and I thought this was
the case here, too.

This was made on a Canon film camera with a 135mm lens (1/160th at f2.2, 400 ISO) on good ole Tri-X and scanned. I was at the third frame from the end of the roll and sensed that this was my shot. I waited until Jen was at the bottom of the dip because of the slower shutter speed I knew there could be some movement and actually I like that there is a bit of it here.

Photo of football star and American Hero Pat Tillman by photographer Paul F. Gero

Pat TIllman

This was an image made on an assignment — my first ever — for Sports Illustrated magazine in the late 90s on (then) Arizona State University football player Pat Tillman.

Pat was a fierce player on the field and had been named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year and was also a great student who was graduating with a degree in Economics.

The concept of the article was to show the student/athlete. When I talked with Pat about the assignment, I proposed an idea for a portrait that would have been more indoors, lit and more conceptual.
He didn’t like the idea but he was so nice about. On the phone he said: “Mr. Gero, I don’t mean to be difficult but that doesn’t sound like me.”

Kind of taken aback by both his keen sense of self and his polite reply, I said. That’s okay Pat, is there anything that you might do that would work with that notion?

He said: “Sometimes I climb into the light tower and just think.”

I nearly dropped my cell phone as I envisioned the photo that would go with that.

The next day, I did the first part of the session — the portrait part — and we did some photos in a classroom and then proceeded to go to the press box to climb the light tower atop it.

Pat ambled up the light tower quickly and easily even while wearing his flip-flops. He’d done this before.

I took a bit longer to climb up with a camera, a belt pack with film, a flash, and a single lens to shoot the shot.

From the technical standpoint, it wasn’t hard — an available light photo mixed with a tiny bit of off camera fill (flash handheld off to the left with an off camera cord, using a stofen dome to create a bare tube effect) but as I was making it I was just
envisioning this image running as a full bleed, two page spread in the magazine. Then the other voice in my head said: Forget it, this will run small, if at all, and after all, this is your FIRST assignment.

Well, the next day I received an excited call from my editor back in NY and they loved the frame of Pat in the light tower — and it would run, as a two page spread!

I was so saddened by his death in the Afghanistan war in 2004 and humbled and awed by his service to our country. He truly was one-of-a-kind and an incredible person — I’m fortunate to have known him and photographed him.

This photograph was a gift from Pat and I’ve never forgotten that and won’t forget him.

Family portrait photo by Paul F. Gero

“Jake, Dylan and Ashton; Freeze!”

This photograph was made late in 2010 on a commissioned portrait session for a client. Originally we were there to do a session for a holiday card and then this presented itself. It’s a simple photograph but it was such a joy to see when I was actually making the frame, but also when I showed it. It’s one of the kind of photographs that departs from what is expected from the notion of family portraiture and instead takes it to, what I hope is a much different and deeper level.
It’s what I aspire to for every family session — to create something that last for a family as an image that stands up over time and gives them joy in viewing it every day. That is a pretty incredible feeling to create for a client.

photo of Bush, Reagan and Gorbachev in 1988 by photographer Paul F. Gero Bush, Reagan and Gorbachev 1988

This image was made for The Chicago Tribune when I worked for the paper back in the mid 80s in the paper’s Washington, D.C. bureau. For this historic photograph, I traveled with the White House press corp up to NYC for the gathering of the incoming president (George H.W. Bush, left), outgoing president Ronald Reagan, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev (far right).

They met on Governor’s Island outside of the city and it was made, ironically on December 7th, 1988. December 7th was the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and eerie that this photograph showing the Twin Towers was made on that day.

About the Host- Travis Schreer

The Photo Life Host Travis Schreer

Travis is a wanderer who has a life-long passion for helping creative people realize their ambitions. While studying at the Kendall College of Art and Design and Eastern Michigan University, simultaneously pursuing a BFA in fine art and a Masters in creative writing, Travis rediscovered his fascination with photography and began working as a product photographer. After a brief stint studying poetry in Paris and years of developing his own artistic identity from the comforts of various midwestern cities, Travis packed his wool socks and moved to the chilly climes of Alaska. While there, he broadened his knowledge of the photography industry through his work for Alaska’s largest advertising agency and his involvement with several stock photography companies. It was also in Alaska that Travis photographed his first wedding alongside his partner, photographer Jessica Hill, and the two began to lay the groundwork for the company that was to follow. Then, it was on to Portland, Oregon where Jessica and Travis would put all of their brainstorming into effect and establish Jessica Hill Photography as one of the premiere boutique wedding photography studios in the area. Next time you’re in Portland, stop by Laurelhurst Park, where Travis can be found most evenings. He’s the scruffy guy playing with Collignon Quincampoix, the coolest dog you will ever meet.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!