Interview with Photographer Drew Echberg

// //
Pleased to present my interview with photographer Drew Echberg. I recently featured his incredible work and i wanted more from the man behind the lens. We ended up having a nice interview on his work, travels, his passion for colors and more. Enjoy!

Can you please tell readers a bit about yourself?
 I'm 31, have lived my whole life in Melbourne (apart from time spent travelling), and am struggling away trying to make a living from photography! 

When did your interest in photography start?

My dad was quite interested in photography when he was younger, and as a kid I always got a big kick out of pushing the shutter release button on his SLR. That feeling must have always stuck with me I think. 
I did a bit of photography in high school, then left it alone for a few years while studying a creative arts degree that included theatre studies and art history. In the final year of that degree I became more interested in photography through studying art history. I then spent a year travelling in South America, taking lots of photos, trying to produce images that were a little unusual I guess, and inspired by some of what I'd studied (although I had almost no technical skills to speak of!). It was after that trip that I decided to go back to uni to do a photography degree at RMIT University.
I majored in documentary photojournalism. There are three series on my website still from my final year (The DogsGertrude Stand Parkour). Since completing my studies I've moved away from that style of photography and towards more landscape based work. I still tend to think of most of my photography as documentary photography however.

In your opinion what is the most important factor in making the perfect picture?

I probably haven't come close to making a perfect picture yet so I'm not sure how to answer that! Umm, I guess at its most basic level it's a combination of interesting subject matter, composition, good technique and light. A perfect picture could be something quite different for different people too. I could probably look at a perfect fashion photo and not get very excited at all.

One of my personal favorite of your work, is Hair Salons in Africa. I find it very interesting and unique.
How did that come about. 

I was travelling in Senegal and Mali in 2008 and started noticing these great hand-painted signs on small businesses everywhere. They were on all sorts of businesses but the ones that really caught my eye were the barbers and hair salons. Each sign was unique and contributed to the individual character of the business in a way that we don't really see anymore in richer countries, where promotional signage is generally so slick and homogenous. Most of the businesses were run in very simple premises, sometimes just tin shacks, but they still went to the effort of commissioning an artist to paint a sign, even if the artist sometimes had only the most basic painting skills. I didn't intend to create a series of photos, I just started photographing salons when I came across them and ended up with a series. There is one photo in the series that doesn't feature any hand-painted signage, but was the one place that I actually got a haircut myself. 
I was wandering around in Mopti, Mali, when I saw small photocopied advertisements for "Obama Coiffure", a barbershop named after Barack Obama. 
I was intrigued and followed the signs until I found the business. I took some photos of the exterior but they were a bit dull, so I went inside and got a haircut and then took a quick portrait of the business owner outside the shop. 

Upon all your worldwide travels which country has been the most remarkable?

Well, a lot of different countries are remarkable for different reasons. The country I visited most recently is Iceland, and I found its natural landscapes to be absolutely mind blowing. The contrasts there are incredible, and some areas are just otherworldly. I've spent quite a lot of time in Argentina and always want to go back. It has wonderful natural beauty, great cities that have a very European feel, and other areas that feel 100 years behind the big cities. West Africa was fascinating, but also quite an exhausting place to travel (especially when you don't have the money or inclination to travel around in private air-conditioned 4WDs). 

A lost of your work is full colors. What do you think is the importance of color in photography and life in general.

Bright colours make me happy! It's probably as simple as that, I love colour and am attracted to colourful scenes and want to photograph them. 

Most colorful country you have been so far.

Possibly Brazil and Colombia. In those countries African and Latin American cultures combine, which make for a whole lot of colour! Also, as tropical countries there's a lot of colour in the natural world there. West Africa, on the other hand, has a lot of colour in its markets, and in people's clothing, but in the dry season at least there's not a lot of colour in the natural landscape - a lot of dust - and a lot of buildings are made of mud brick and therefore aren't very colourful. 

Travelling around the world, how has that helped you as an individual and a photographer?

I suppose it's a cliche, but travelling around the world has helped me to understand and appreciate different cultures, religions and ways of life, and of course it has made me appreciate how lucky I am to live in a wealthy liberal democracy. As for how it has helped me as a photographer, I think that travel is one of the main things that inspired me to become a photographer, and that continues to inspire me as a photographer. Quite simply, travelling to unfamiliar places inspires me to take photos - unfortunately, when I'm at home in Melbourne I take very few personal photos. 

What do you believe is the power of photography?

Photography has the power to communicate all sorts of ideas, from the profound and important to the completely stupid. It's like language, music, sculpture or any other medium. The vast majority of photography doesn't communicate anything more meaningful than "buy this handbag and you'll be beautiful". 

Your work involves all aspects of photography from portraits, photojournalism,architecture,travel and events. Which is your favorite aspect to work on and the most challenging for you as well.

I don't really think of any of my photography as "travel" photography. Travel photography to me is mostly about making a location look pretty, exotic and appealing - photos for travel guidebooks, brochures, calendars etc. When I travel I'm more interested in finding mundane, ugly, everyday subject matter - things that seem unusual, incongruous, or make me laugh for some reason. I think of most of the photographs I've taken while travelling as documentary, landscape, fine art - a combination of those genres. This is undoubtedly my favourite photography to work on, largely thanks to the fact the I'm on holiday exploring new places while I do it!
Events are something that I do for the money, although I do get satisfaction and enjoyment from them. I shoot more landscape architecture than architecture. It's always quite challenging, as the subjects are rarely "look at me" subjects that lend themselves to hero shots (which is perhaps more common in architecture).
Portraiture is probably what I find most challenging. It's something that takes a lot of practice to get good at, and I've probably always avoided it a little. 

Aside from photography what else are you passionate about?

Hiking, playing soccer, growing vegetables in my garden, Australian football (Carlton is my team), being at the beach, following politics and world affairs, cooking... and lots of other stuff too. 

In your opinion how will you define creativity.

Seeing something interesting where most people wouldn't, and then developing that something into a piece of work. 

Favorite spot in Melbourne.

The MCG when Carlton is winning.

What do you like most about what you do?

Making prints. An image doesn't ever really feel "finished" until it is printed. Unfortunately I only occasionally make prints, but when I do I get great satisfaction from seeing the finished product, the texture of the paper, the smoothness of tones - it's something completely different from, and completely superior to, a digital image on a screen. 

Find Drew Echberg Here :