Photography is a flexible medium that can evoke deep emotional responses and influence the moods of viewers and subjects alike. As one of the ultimate forms of creative expression, it’s also deeply personal. While virtually anyone can point and shoot with a cell phone or a throwaway digital camera, it takes a keen eye and a sharp wit to find great subjects and create truly memorable photographs.
This doesn’t mean that there’s a “right” way to approach the medium. Photographers like Stephen Finfer take pride in unique, even unorthodox techniques and preferences that can produce unexpected and often powerful pieces of work. Whether they’re photographing a late-summer sunset over the Pacific Ocean or capturing a musician’s essence at a closed shoot, these professionals are committed to creating a permanent record of the beauty and grace that surrounds us.
Photographers don’t have to specialize, but they’re usually drawn to certain subjects over others. Whereas naturalists and outdoorsy types gravitate toward still-life studies of landscapes or living organisms, men and women who have extensive entertainment-industry backgrounds tend to be more comfortable with old-fashioned human-interest photography.
Many who fall into the latter group are driven by a deep-seated need to tell their subjects’ stories. In Hollywood and other entertainment hubs, celebrities and public figures often find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous photographers who never hesitate to sell their “creations” to the highest bidder. As Stephen Finfer notes, “When someone takes your picture, they own it. They may use pictures you don’t like…you cannot use them without the photographer’s permission.”
Of course, the general public is all too familiar with celebrity shots that have been used without permission. From supermarket tabloids to online rags, these unflattering, often unfair images are ubiquitous. For many public figures, this reality makes it difficult to run errands or visit friends without being followed or harassed.
Fortunately, photographers like Stephen Finfer take a different approach that respects the rights of their subjects and sympathizes with the everyday struggles that public figures face. While he has entered into lucrative image-sharing deals with Splash and has supplied content to national magazines like People and US Weekly, Finfer puts the comfort and dignity of his subjects ahead of his own financial and personal considerations. He’s not the only photographer who operates in this fashion: After high-profile incidents involving members of the paparazzi, a growing number of celebrity photographers have taken it upon themselves to change the game.
Like Finfer, many photographers with successful talent-management or production careers have begun to create private photo libraries for their valued clients. These professionals may conduct private shoots with high-grade lighting and equipment to create a lasting record that’s worthy of the subject’s name. More importantly, these private libraries afford complete control to their subjects and engender lasting creative partnerships that can produce memorable art.
For professionals like Stephen Finfer, photography is about more than financial gain or client management. In addition to his cataloging work, Finfer has depicted private subjects, shot album and book covers and created no-nonsense headshots for public and private use. He echoes the sentiments of many of his compatriots when he says, “There’s something about the connection between the photographer and subject that allows you to see behind the eyes.”
It’s reassuring to know that photographers like Finfer are working hard to reshape the industry.