December 09

Interview: Christopher Rolinson Part II

Hope that all of you enjoyed Part I of the interview with Chris Rolinson from StartPoint Media!   As promised, here is the exciting conclusion from Chris!  I think he provides some great insights into the world of photography and I was also really interested in the new photographic technology that he has been engaged with recently!  READ ON!  Thanks again Chris for sharing your insights!!

Hells Hollow Flume

What do you think is the hardest lesson for students to grasp related to a career in photography?

That it’s a business.  It’s as hard as doing anything else you choose.  It’s hard to make the connections, working on the images, being able to pay everything and balance family.

I am sure that students ask if they can make any money in photography these days.  What do you tell them?

Yes you can.  But like anything else you had better be sharp with the business side of things.  It can be feast or famine so you have to balance purchases and make good decisions.  My advice is typically not to stick around Pittsburgh but to try and get a staff job at a newspaper somewhere.  But their answer is almost always the same, “I can’t make any money doing that.  It only pays like $8 an hour.”  And I have to ask them how bad do they really want it.  Do you want to do photography for a living or are you just talking.  If you are serious, you’d better live on a tight budget, get good at photography, build your network, and pay your dues.

There seems to be a lot of photography programs at the various colleges in the region.  Is a market the size of Pittsburgh saturated with photographers?

The region is totally saturated.  Think about it this way.  There is more than one Pulitzer Prize winning photographers in town freelancing.  If you get a call from Joe graduate or one of those award winning photographers, who are you going to choose to work for you?  The competition in Pittsburgh is stiff.  The jobs that I personally have are a result of key relationships that I have built.  There’s been a lot of consistency for me as a result of some of those relationships.

What sort of equipment do you recommended to photography students on a tight  budget?

Buy good glass.  Don’t get caught up on what camera to purchase.  The glass you can continue using for a long time and upgrade the camera body later.

What do you think are the biggest changes in the world of photography in the last few years?

I haven’t really been in this business all that long.  I have only been a professional for 9 years and it was film when I first started.  6 months later the newspaper switched to digital using a D1.  The thing I am really head over heels excited about right now is GigaPan.

So tell me what it is about the GigaPan technology that has really got you excited. (NOTE:  I tried to post a photo here of a GigaPan image but WordPress was not cooperating.  So please check out this link to see an example of one of Chris’s photos with this technology as well as the official website at:

It can be used as a tool of journalism like no other tool has been able to do before.  As opposed to static, you can take a picture all the way around the room and you can zoom into the details within the picture, tag it, and write about it.  As the photographer I can have a wide image and talk to different people within the image or write about specific things.  It has marvelous potential, but I think it might be too new for people to fully get their heads around it.  I’ve tried to pitch it and only have got one person to buy into it so far.

The technology was created at Carnegie Mellon University with a robotic mechanism and you can put any standard point and shoot camera into it, shoot everything, process it and stitch it together into these really compelling images.  I just got back from Kent, OH and took pictures of my friend Bill who is a painter.  The GigaPan is really something else!  There is a picture on the GigaPan website from the Obama inauguration taken by David Bergman using the GigaPan that is worth checking out.  It is incredible!  As a news tool, it is going to be amazing.  You can go to a rock concert and take a 360 of the crowd.  There are only two newspapers that I know that have done this…the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and a paper in Arizona.  I think it has a lot of future potential.

We’ve used GigaPan twice at Point Park University with students using them in workshops related to journalism.  Coming this fall we will have an entire class dedicated to reporting with the GigaPan.  Where I think the GigaPan fits right now is a way of training you how to think about things in a different way so you have the capacity to understand the future technologies.

I’m a bit of a movie nut, so I have to ask a movie related question.  Let’s say that I am a Hollywood director creating a movie about your life as a photographer.  Who should I cast in the role as you and why?

Elliott from E.T.

The kid that was in ET (Henry Thomas).  Because when I was a kid he and I were the spitting image of one another.  Hopefully today he has grown up to be as good looking as me.  Him or maybe Will Farrell, but I’m really not that funny.  But I tend to reference the TV show Kung Fu all the time to my students referring to them as “grasshoppers” and my students have no idea what I’m talking about.  All of a sudden I am an antique.

Anything else exciting coming up that you want to put a plug in for?

I’m going to be the guest editor for GigaPan Magazine for the January issue and that is where all of the photos will be that I took today in Kent.  In January I’m having a show in McKees Rocks at the Father Ryan Art Center.  I’ve been doing stuff with them for about 7 years and they’re really special people.  We’re having a book signing, opening, and reception there.  In the summer, I’m giving two workshops at the Touchstone Center for the Arts in Uniontown.  One is Photojournalism that will be begin on the 4th of July with a theme of America and American small towns.  Then two weeks later I am doing a nature photography workshop at the same location.

Thanks again Chris for all of the insights!  Be sure to check out Chris’s website and others linked within the two part interview!!  Photo of the week posted on Friday!  And don’t forget about the photo contest ending Friday as well that is referenced two blog posts ago as well as on the Photoburgh Flickr Page.