PhotoPlus 2008, Day Two

Mac Talks

Joe McNally speaks at the Nikon exhibit area at PhotoPlus 2008. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay

The show floor at PhotoPlus is a busy place. Most of the bigger vendors host mini-lectures, signings, demonstrations and tutorials that are all worth a look, and it isn’t unusual for the corridors between booths to be blocked when a popular photographer shows up.
That was how I ended up spending most of Friday afternoon with Joe McNally, not that he noticed.

I was stumbling around the show floor when the huge crowd in front of one of the Nikon spaces drew my attention and McNally was just getting started.
This was a show for the punters, with lots of big bright photos and a demonstration of basic lighting techniques using diffusion screens and Nikon’s new strobe system. I’m a Canon user, myself, so it stung a bit when McNally took some cheap shots at Canon’s admittedly less sophisticated wireless system. That got salved pretty quick when the Nikon wireless links went wonky during the photographer’s demonstration.

Still, the gregarious photographer blustered through, swapping strobes and keeping the banter going as he glossed over the issues in favour of the technique. It was an intriguing glimpse into his technique for keeping a shoot going when the technology collapses all around you.
McNally would offer more glimpses into his approach in his formal seminar “The Moment it Clicks: Tips for the working photographer” an hour later.
This was a markedly different Joe McNally, possibly a wearier presenter. Gone was the salesman’s shill and in its place was an appealing honesty as he pulled up a chair and asked an audience of photographers he seemed keen to treat as peers.

This presentation was more focused on McNally’s personal projects, including his work with firefighters after 9/11 and other projects with the room-sized Polaroid camera.
“You have to shoot something that makes your soul sing, you have to shoot something that makes you happy.”
“The basic message that was left on cave walls is the same one that we leave, we were here.”
These are some of the reasons why McNally continues with editorial work when advertising opportunities await.

Then the photographer discussed the path he took to where he is today, sharing a remarkably open and direct story about his time with Geographic, which was “difficult.”
On his commercial assignments, he can end up shooting 120-140 gigabytes per day.
For the National Geographic story on early humanity, the society created Wilma the reconstructed neanderthal at a cost of US$85,00, but then realised that the super realistic mannequin would not be suitable for public display and would only be used in the magazine. McNally then had the assignment to place “Wilma” in settings that would make her seem to be alive in the past.

On business: “I don’t dupe people, I believe in disclosure. When it comes to billing, make everything clear from the get go, put everything that’s agreed on in writing. Insist on non-exclusive contracts, but I’ll give my (my what? I can’t read my own handwriting here) away if somebody pays me enough.
blog comments powered by Disqus