Avner Ofer / Member Interview
For the past 25 years, I have traveled around the world in search of culture, people, and remoteness so I can capture and preserve these places that change so rapidly, and share them with the world. I often find myself in the most off-the-beaten-path locations, where I thrive in exploring. The famous saying, “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone” truly applies to how I live my life. I interned with National Geographic in 2000 and have pursued an independent career as a photographer doing national art shows ever since.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
My dad. He was a hobbyist and touted his camera everywhere. We had some of his images hanging on the walls and I wanted to do the same. So, as a teenager, I grabbed his camera, and fell in love with the medium.
Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.
In high school, when I took my dad’s old Pentax ME Super, I found old train cars near my house and started taking photos of them in black and white. When I developed the images in the darkroom, I was mesmerized and so enthralled with the results that I knew I wanted to pursue this hobby to the career it is now. The way I was able to make these old rail cars into art truly inspired me to continue shooting. I wanted to share the way I saw the world with anyone who wanted to take the time to see.
What do you enjoy photographing the most?
I had a geography professor who talked about sense of place. That got stuck in my head, and that is what I strive to shoot. The idea is to bring stories through the art that represent a place, a culture, or a feel. It is combining the human element with the natural world. They are more complex images and by far the most rewarding to me.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Selling my first piece of art at a small college show. Really validated my efforts and showed me this is the path I want to take.
How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?
It is a combination of photography, geography, and artist that allows me to see the world differently than most. I see the beauty, but also the underbelly of places. It shows me how to be patient and get to know a place and the people. It really helped connect me to the subjects I photograph. The time I take to acquire my shots allows me to share my experience as more of an introduction to the images in a deeper way than a casual observer.
What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow, would improve their success?
This word - authentic - has been used a lot, but I believe it has merit in this case. Being true to your art, and really connecting with people will make all the difference. I find that many photographers are focused on social media and not the craft itself. Filters and presets have taken over the art of photography. Be true to your art and people will respond to it.
To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Fortunately, I have the opportunity to travel for 3 months a year for photography, and really get inspired on the road from other cultures and people I meet. Traveling is my passion and it is an eye opener which brings me in contact with the unknown. That inspires me more than anything, the adventure of discovery.
Also, being in the art show world, I have met many fellow artists that also inspire me with their work. We all have a different eye, perspective, and story to tell, so learning from one another is important.
What is your best photography related tip?
Always shoot what you love, and do it over and over again. That is the way to perfect your skill, but also to make photography always fun and not a job.
Your photos look amazing. You must have some hung up on your walls. Do you prefer canvas or printing on metal or acrylic?
For me it all depends on the image. I have some on canvas and some on metal. I love the canvas for the textures, so if the image is rustic with a lot of color, it really makes it look like a painting, while the metal is great for more of everything else that you want bold and vibrant.
What do you look for in a canvas print?
Good color rendition, great texture, cross bracing to prevent sagging and warping, stretched properly, and the use of overall high-quality materials (i.e., archival canvas, ink, kiln dried wood).
What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?
For me on my long trips a cleaning kit is a must. I hate dust spots so having a good micro cloth and lens cleaners is a must. Also, I always carry a backup system with me - external drives that I carry in separate places.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?
Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs. For me, the photographs are just part of the story. To get behind the scenes into the mind frame and thought process of the photographer is so intriguing. And Steve is one of the best.
What is your all-time favorite lens?
What is your favorite post-processing software?
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