I recently had the pleasure to interview one of the most inspiring fashion photographers on Flickr, Simon Pais-Thomas. We discuss his background and technique and how Flickr has helped him in his career.
Andreas: For those who don’t know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Simon Pais-Thomas: My name is Simon Pais, Chilean selftaught photographer aged 23. I’m a creative passioned mind that has been doing his career for now 5 years. During the last 3 years I’ve been fully dedicated to work in the fashion industry, which has payed off really nice! Mostly I’m a hard worker, and I consider this my job and life.
How did you get introduced to photography?
At age 17, when a whole digital revolution started among my generation, involving digital cameras & pictures to share in photo-community-websites. I never knew much about photography or photographers, but when digital cameras came into the market I felt immediately attracted to it. I have always been related to painting, drawings, some way of expressing, or “artistic mind” and so a digital camera help to satisfy the need of mine to capture those things that attracted my eye and imagination.
How did you learn photography? Are you self taught or did you go to school to study photography?
Definitely a mixture, I did have some practice before learning all the technical stuff at college, where I studied advertising and took my class of photography. I never needed correction on my compositions or colors and I was always conscious about natural light and lightning, although never had the technical words to describe the development of this matter.
I remember saying “the photo is white” when overexposed or “blurry” when it was not well focused. When i took the classes at school I already had my “Fall Games” series done and that was my exam at this class and deserved me my first exhibition EVER. My photography teacher loved my work!
Your photos range from fashion editorials to almost Dalí-like fantasies. Is there a surreal side to you?
Definitely yes. My family and friends always encouraged me to be like that and have a mind like that, to be not just out there, but “out where?” and imagine all the fantasies from a child. Nowadays I can’t seem to be satisfied with what I see regularly on daily basis. Like life can pass right by my eyes unnoticed. So I dream, and imagine even more surrealistic, exaggerated. I’m very ‘efectista’ for my pictures, to me, it feels like painting a portrait.
What equipment do you use to create your photos?
Right now I’m using Canon 5D-Mark II, My lenses are:
f1.4 / 50 mm
f2,8/ 24-70 mm
f1,2/ 85 mm
f4 / 70-200 mm and a regular f5.6 75/300 mm.
My lightning equipments is a 3 lights kit, 500 Wts each, and one of 1000 Wts.
How many people usually make up your team on shoots?
The basic is 4 to 5 people, involving photographer, stylist, makeup & hair and model. That’s for independent shootings without money or client. But when there’s a client involved the team can go from 10 to 20, depending on what the shoot is about.
How many shots on average do you shoot during a session?
From 900 to 1,500 shots.
What has been your most memorable photo shoot, and why?
I have to say that photographing Ex-President Michelle Bachelet was something very exciting. I couldn’t pick just one, maybe I haven’t done it yet. Memorable would be when I do something that the whole world could see on a magazine…
Do you have any secret technique to create great shots?
Nope, just try to flow with it and have fun. I prefer being alone when editing as well as retouching so I let my mind go with colors, balance and editing.
What inspires you? Who are your favorite photographers?
Doing this job inspires me a lot, the real and surreal side to it feeds my hunger. Women and fashion as well inspires me.
Believing I’m going much more forward with my ideas, pushing me with my vision inspires me a lot. I admire Miles Aldridge, Nick Knight, Stephen Meisel, David Armstrong but I admire many different images from many different photographers, there’s so many talented visions out there, it’s hard to get influenced by just one.
If you could photograph any person in the world, who would it be?
I would like to contribute my talent to someone that has been an icon from long time, like Twiggy, although her persona is not today the huge bomb she was when young, I like the idea of someone that gave her soul to the arts of photography through her life. Or Naomi Campbell, although she’s not my fav person, I would love to shoot her when she’s in her 65.
What websites do you visit on a daily basis?
Besides personal accounts, I do visit Flickr a lot, among my page and others that leave comments, it’s like a general exercise to me to get caught by member’s profile picture and see what they offer or what are they expressing. Although I’m a very quiet visitor cause I hardly leave comments. I also visit art-dept.com website and Jed Root to keep up with what’s the good work. Always dream about seeing my name in the menu.
Have you gotten any assignments through Flickr?
Not only assignments but interviews, fan mail, meetings with people, friends and all my body of work :-) Flickr made a lot for me.
What tips do you have for aspiring fashion photographers?
Build up a good portfolio and go out there, get something happening and show your work. Learn from hard criticism and get to the top.
Where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?
To have conquered my dream to conquer the next one ;-)