Sam Abell Presentation “The Photographic Life,” About His Life And Work

Sam Abell, The Photographic Life
Sam Abell, The Photographic Life

Hiram called and told me one of his idols, legendary National Geographic photographer Sam Abell, was speaking in New Mexico at the University of the Southwest and invited me to go on a little road trip with him to go see his talk. Of course, I said yes.

His talk was amazing, he gave an overview of his life and photography while also telling some really interesting and inspiring stories. Sam’s talk was one of the best talks I’ve ever attended, I really appreciated Hiram inviting me to join him.

Sam gave me so much to reflect on. I took a lot of notes and here some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom and knowledge I learned from Sam Abell:

  • A photograph should be a representation of a photographer’s heart
  • Compose and wait
  • Micro compositions, small space between elements, tiny compositions within the overall composition
  • Separation gives dimension to a photograph
  • If a photo can be memorized its life is over, it has life when it keeps you coming back for more to see more
  • He goes back to the same places again and again and waits
  • The setting, gesture, and expression create a solid image
  • When making a photograph of a person or animal put the head and shoulders above the horizon, gives them stature and dignity
  • Astute attention to life and light is the answer
  • Capture two different states of minds at the same time
  • Say yes to invitations and opportunities
  • Framing is the foundation of photography, internal framing
  • All photographs are about time

After his talk, Hiram and I had to meet him in person. We both bought his book and waiting a long line for an opportunity to shake his hand thanking him for his generosity in sharing his knowledge about photography and life.

Hiram and I with Sam Abell
Hiram and I with Sam Abell

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