Jeri Lampert is a fashion, travel and portrait photographer based in New York. She’s done work for brands like Gap, The Brooklyn Museum, The San Francisco Chronicle, Joor and Macy's among many others.
Name: Jeri Lampert
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III for digital, Mamiya RZ 67 for film
How did you get into photography
I was originally in art school for drawing and painting, actually. Like a lot of art students I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. Nor did I know what the real world applications would be should I pursue a career in drawing or painting. I realized the camera bug had gotten to me when I was taking four photo classes a semester and only one drawing class!
What’s the most challenging part of working as a photographer for a living?
First off, the times that we are living in are very economically challenging. I feel like the kids from my generation really got a raw deal. I moved to NYC right after college in ‘99. Everything that happened in 2001 really effected people that were at the beginning of their careers. It was a slow grind up and then the economic crash happened in 2008 and every photographer I knew lost all their clients and all the big fish swooped down and stole the little fish’s clients. I had to start all over again. A lot of photographers were in the same boat as me. Now things seem to have recovered economically and every year gets better and better.
Secondly, combined with the economic issues that were happening, film was being phased out and the digital age started. With the advent of digital photography a lot of people who don’t have the technical know-how and would have never have been able to take make it as a shooter, are shooting, and successfully. Now everyone has the motto “Fix it in post!” If you come from the film age, like I do, you get it right in camera, on set, the first time. The market is inundated with sub par photographers. Everyone in the world with an iPhone thinks that they are a photographer these days.
We know you are a fan of Lomography, do you think film is more enjoyable than digital?
I think film is harder than digital. Film is expensive and you never know what you’re getting, so there’s a lot of mistakes and happy accidents that occur. I think the Lomo cameras are very FUN. They’re a relaxing, no pressure way to take photos for me. It’s nice to have an outlet that is just pure enjoyment, rather than “work”.
We see you work a lot with products. How does the process of shooting that differ from shooting an artistic photograph?
Product work is very technical. The lighting needs to be “just so” the hair, make-up and styling need to perfect. When you work for other people, you have to bend to their sensibilities, often making a more generic photograph. When I do artistic work, it’s just for me. If you can’t see the clothes perfectly because it’s a dark and moody photo, who cares? It’s MINE I can do what I want to do. I can wander down whatever path I want to and see where it leads me. The artistic avenues for commercial work are few and far between, often being very expensive for the photographer. I really appreciate the artistic photography I get to do. It’s what drew me to photography in the first place.
You’ve had opportunities to shoot for a lot of well-known brands – have you got any advice for photographers looking to be a product photographer?
It’s who you know, not what you do. Put yourself out there and be on set working everyday, as PA, as an assistant, as a digital tech. Build a portfolio of work you love, not work that you think will get you work. There’s a TON of photographers out there, and if you make your work look like everyone else’s you won’t stand out from the crowd.
How was your experience shooting with the Petzval Lens? What advice can you give to people shooting with it for the first time?
The Petzval lens actually reminded me of shooting with my Mamiya RZ 67. It’s a slower process. The focus is a little particular and needs to be just right, so you really need to slow down and take your time with your shooting. I got the best results from using a wider aperture, the swirly effect of the lens was so much prettier. When you’re wide open like that, though you really need to focus well. I found myself too used to a digital pace and rushing (although I didn’t realize I was rushing, of course!) After reviewing the first few portraits I made, and realizing a lot of them were out of focus, or had the focus in the wrong spot, I just allowed myself to slow down and enjoy the process. Another thing I found really cool about the lens is that the straight RAW images looked fantastic. Usually with digital you need to put some sort of curve on it, as digital flattens everything out. This lens bumps up the contrast and saturation on its own, giving it a more film-like look. My one criticism of the lens is that I wish it had a focus lock. When you’re shooting down on a subject, the lens just slips completely out of focus and slides down due to gravity. This is truly a portrait lens. It delivers fantastically when you use it for what it’s meant for.
What is your favorite shot with the lens so far? Why?
I think my favorite shot has to be the one of my dog, Pickle. You can really see that swirly effect on the rug around him and only his eyes are in focus and rest fading out, giving him a super soulful look. Plus he’s just so darn cute.
And lastly, what’s the strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic encounter that you have ever had?
Pretty much the greatest photo experience I had was taking my giant beast of a Mamiya on a 10 hour hike through the Austrian Alps, while on my honeymoon. We hiked up a mountain to a farm that made their own schnapps, and I got mildly electrocuted by the rope-like fences they used to keep the cows in. NOT the same ones we use in the States! I had the best schnapps of my life, saw cows marched through the streets wearing odd head-dresses and adorned with giant bells. I took a gondola up a peak and hiked to a cheese farm that had been around since the 1500’s, and then outran a thunderstorm all the way down to the valley below! Everyone kept asking me how many mega pixels my camera had. No one understood that it was film. When I got back to the states I was so excited about the film, when I got the contacts sheets I realized that halfway through the hike a button on my lens had been shoved that I had never even noticed before. Almost all my shots were out of focus. Devastating! Oh well, they exist in my memories where they belong.
Follow Jeri's work
The Lomography x Zenit Petzval Lens is now available for pre-order in the Lomography Online Shop! They will be delivered on a first come, first served basis; so don’t miss out on securing your piece of photographic history and your place in the pre-order queue!