Peter Sechi – Behind the lens

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Peter Sechi has been in the photography game for two decades and has shot a multitude of gorgeous images on a variety of subjects. He gives us his insight into how the industry has changed and where it appears to be heading.



You’ve had a very successful career in photography, spanning over 20 years, and have had the pleasure of working professionally in both film and digital. Tell us about your experience with both mediums and what the transition was like from film to digital?

My career up to this point has been exactly half film and half digital. I look back on the film days fondly, especially the black and white, as I printed my own work. It meant that not only could I interpret the image with the way I lit and shot it, but also allowed me creativity in the way I printed the image.

In those film years, I was like an excitable boy. I tried every type of film that was out there, using a lot of them in ways they weren’t intended for, to give a different interpretation on an assignment I was shooting. It was about striking a balance, shooting the assignment to follow the brief, and then going to town by doing something totally left of centre. More often than not, some of the experimental images made the client’s final cut.

The darkroom was just as rewarding if you put in the time and effort. What will happen if I leave the print in the toner longer/shorter than it says in the instructions? What if I just bleach the print a little? Well … let’s find out then!

Using Medium Format (a large negative) equipment brought a lot of joy and satisfaction as well. They were the dinosaurs of the camera world (very basic), but the image quality was outstanding. Using an analogy, it was like learning to drive a car with a ‘three-on-a-tree’ or a clunky old floor shift, that seemed to have acres between the gears. Once you mastered them, you could drive anything. It was the same with medium format. Also, only getting 10 – 12 shots on a roll really made you think about the image you were shooting before pressing the shutter button.

This was a very important thing to do, as digital files were either taken as jpegs or tiff files, which meant they had a narrow exposure latitude similar to E6 or ‘slide’ film, as it was known.

Nowadays, the RAW format seems to be all the rage, as it has a far greater exposure latitude – hence the name ‘digital negative’ used to describe it.

The darkroom is now replaced by your computer and editing software – a dry darkroom, really. This now gives you an infinite amount of ways to alter and interpret an image. Personally, I like to still keep things ‘real’ and not stray too far from my traditional darkroom methods.

Even now, I still shoot like I’m using film. By this, I mean I know the final look and feel of the image that I will achieve when I take it. There is no ‘hope and see’ mentality in my processes.

As technology progresses, so does the world of digital photography. With more advanced equipment (and software) being produced, the limits for photographers seem to be endless. Where do you see the world of photography heading over the next decade?

Technology across the board is moving ahead so fast, that I don’t really have any idea where photography will be in 10 years, to be honest. In the short term, I think 3D images could make an appearance. Fuji tried about 18 months ago with this technology – using a 3D camera, and the image was then printed on 3D paper. However, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I think the idea has some merit. Also, smartphones/handheld devices like iPads etc will become more prominent in photography.

So many images we see these days are ‘Photoshopped’ and altered beyond recognition. What is there to say for capturing beautiful raw images in the first place?

Personally, I think a lot. Photography to me is capturing a  moment in time. Capturing the right moments at the right time is really what gives an image its beauty  – not Photoshopping the crap out of it. Raising your camera to your eye and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, if you like.

I always try to create the perfect image in the camera. An old Chief Photographer I worked with at the Advocate, John Rotar, used to say: “Get it right when you take the image, and you have nothing to worry about”. This adage has always stuck with me.

I also think historically speaking, unaltered images are very important. Moments written about in history are always subject to a point of view; however, it is hard to argue with a photo essay of an event.

DSLRs are so affordable these days and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, many people think that because they have the equipment they’re a ‘real photographer’, so to speak. But equipment isn’t everything … what real talent must a great photographer possess?

Look, I think photography as a profession has been sadly cheapened over the last decade. The number of people buying digital SLRs, putting them in some program mode to shoot in and create a website and call themselves a professional, has reached plague proportions. If I buy a hammer, that doesn’t make me a carpenter. Same goes with photography.

In any trade or profession, training and experience are the things that make you competent at your vocation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need apprenticeships etc. What then sets people apart after their training is natural talent, drive and in the case of photography, vision and a creative mind.

What’s been the secret to your long career in the photography industry?

• You have to keep challenging yourself and never stay in your comfort zone. You are only as good as your last assignment.

• Keeping it light! I’ve never taken myself too seriously – I do take my work seriously, however.

• Preparation. Making sure you have all of the scenarios covered … ‘always expect the unexpected’.

• Being able to blend in when photographing people and the ability to put them at ease.

• I’ve always created my own style with my work and not followed trends or other photographers. It’s a profession that lets you put your own stamp on things, so why waste that opportunity?

• And last but not least, I love what I do. I still like going to work – how many people can say that!

Thanks Peter.

This story was published in issue 27 Coffs Coast

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