Justin Fantl is a professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California whose images are known for their graphic, subtle, and slightly surreal style.
Can you walk us through your process of creating images from the conceptual stage, all the way to the finished product?
This can really vary depending on the project. Sometimes we truly work from a blank canvas, and other times the concept is already pretty buttoned up. The process typically involves phone calls and emails, followed by a treatment, often with sketches, more phone calls, then actual shooting, and then post production. I like to try to create room on a shoot for experimentation. You can sketch and concept all day, but sometimes you can’t really understand how something will work until you are in the studio and behind the camera. I try to stay involved in the post-production process and offer suggestions and art direction. Luckily, a lot of my look comes through lighting and composition, so I don’t have to worry too much about the client taking it in a direction that doesn’t feel like me.
What do you think makes a powerful image?
I think any image that gives one pause and elicits some kind of emotional or cerebral response.
How has photography impacted your life and changed the way you see the world?
In general, I would say that photography makes me pay attention. My job is very much about finding the nuance and subtleties of things. I feel like this carries over into my day to day, in that I try to appreciate what surrounds me. It could be something as simple as the way the light reflects off of the buildings across the street at certain times of day. I think a lot of joy can be found in simplicity, but you never see it if you don’t pay attention and allow yourself to look.
Your work covers many different genres, ranging from landscapes to commercial fashion shoots. What is your favorite subject matter to shoot and why?
Recently, my favorite work to shoot has been aerial work. It takes the landscape work, quite literally, to another level and offers up an entirely new perspective. I love the logistics of these shoots: researching with Google Earth, planning the flight path, coordinating with the pilot, and then actually flying and shooting is just awesome. As you mentioned, I do shoot quite a variety of subject matter. I haven’t necessarily been pegged as one type of photographer, so each shoot can be wildly different. I think this keeps it fresh, as each project we are presented with creates different issues that need to be worked on and solved.
For those up and coming photographers looking to do more commercial photography work, what is your advice for them?
I am sure we have all heard this, but I think that you have to shoot what you love. The best art directors see right through the bullshit. If it isn’t authentically you, people will see that. Forming relationships with the people that could potentially hire you is also very important. It is something I could probably do better! Having a niche and knowing your market is also important in the commercial realm. Much of that world is very literal. If you want to shoot shoes, well you better have a bunch of shoes in your portfolio.
Where do you hope to see your photography take you in the next 5 years?
I think my main goal/goals for some point during the next 5 years are making work for a book and having a show. I have always wanted to make a book, and I just haven’t done it yet. Now is the time to just get out there and make it happen!
Any upcoming projects/series that you can tell us about?
I guess I am in the process of figuring that out. Loosely, the book idea I have is doing a modern geological survey of the west.