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In Mike Potthast’s family, photography goes way back. He’s attempt aggregate from ancestors portraits to celebrities
Around accurate studios from infancy, and a able from a adolescent age, Mike Potthast is an artisan who has fabricated a name for himself over the years.
From the bounded elite to sports stars like Shaquille O’Neill and Roger Clemons, to politicians such as Jeb Bush and Adam Putnam, to media bigwigs like Willard Scott and actors like Jane Seymour, to accustomed association who appetite their families to be captured by an amazing talent, he has congenital a acceptability as a virtuoso of the lens.
He comes to the artful ancillary of the business naturally. His father, Bill, accustomed Potthast Studios in Winter Haven in the aboriginal 1960s. His grandfathering was a columnist in the U.S. Army during World War I. And his great-grandfather was a capital Baltimore appliance maker whose creations were delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and are believed to still be amid the White Abode furnishings.
Potthast has attempt bodies and scenes while benumbed on the aback of motorcycles, afloat in hot air balloons, dangling from 250-foot-tall cranes, aloft in anchored addition airplanes and helicopters, on aboriginal beaches, amidst by beasts in backcountry settings, anchored amid dogs, bodies and altered wildlife, in studios with alive kids and bad-tempered teenagers – and aloof about everywhere abroad you can imagine. The 47-year-old Potthast may accept apparent it all, but like the accurate Eagle Scout he was in his youth, he’s not cogent all.
Q. Did you mostly apprentice from your father?
A. I grew up watching my dad assignment in the studio. He accustomed the business in 1964 and backward alive in until the time I took over in 2004. I about formed with him backward at night aback in the darkroom days. He would be actuality cutting in the day and at night I would appear aback with him and we’d be admiral press until he’d booty me aback home about 10 — I was still in elementary academy – and it would not be abnormal for him to appear aback to the flat and be alive until 2 in the morning. I abstruse the darkroom ancillary from him, how to assignment with bodies on the account side, techniques, agreement and abnormally lighting. That’s what photography is – capturing light.
Q. Did you anytime accept academic training?
A. I went to the Southeast Center for Accurate Studies at Daytona State, one of the top bristles photography schools in the country at the time I was there. I accustomed academic training in bartering photography there but the absolute hands-on came from alive with my dad.
Q. How continued accept you been in this location?
A. Dad bought this architecture in 1972. Aback it was congenital in 1924, the bench allotment was Levy’s, a administration store. The admiral was a boarding house, a auberge blazon thing. Bodies would get off the alternation downtown, break actuality for a few nights or a anniversary while they got their anxiety on the ground, again move on. Eventually it became May’s Dress Shop in the 1950s.
Q. Your audience are appealing abundant a who’s who of Polk County. How did that appear about?
A. My dad accustomed the name. You do a acceptable job for bodies and it seems to booty affliction of itself — one job leads to the next. You accept to consistently be artistic — that’s the boxy part. Everybody sees everybody else’s assignment so you accept to acquisition article a little bit altered to do with anniversary being and that’s aback you alpha to attending into their personalities and acquisition article that gives that being or ancestors appropriate character. You can’t aloof arrangement the photography style.
Q. What affectionate of locations to you like to use?
A. Altered families fit altered styles. My aptitude is to acquisition a ambience that agency article to that ancestors – article actually different like a abode or some acreage that holds acceptation for them, like a citrus bracken or beasts ranch. That’s what a account is about — cogent a adventure about that ancestors at a assertive time of their life, and capturing that moment. I try to acquisition a abundance akin with a applicant afore the camera shows up. Sometimes a simple flat ambience can be appealing alarming if you accept a acceptable apprehend on that being and their personality. Sometimes it is the simplest way of cogent a person’s story.
Q. Aren’t you additionally cogent a adventure with bartering photography?
A. Absolutely. Bartering assignment usually takes you alfresco on location. If I’m in the flat for a week, I’m accessible to get outside. If I’m alfresco for a anniversary — abnormally in July — I’m accessible to get aback in the studio. Account assignment and bartering assignment are affectionate of the same. You’re usually ambidextrous with bodies — a builder, a lawyer, a doctor — so it’s basically a account you’re creating. My abundance akin and what I actually like to do is assignment with people.
Q. What do you like atomic about what you do?
A. I bigger be accurate with this one. I grew accomplishing this. I apperceive my job actually able-bodied — I apperceive what fits bodies actually well, what works compositionally, what acceptable lighting is, what a acceptable ambience is. I apperceive all that, but if my applicant doesn’t like the job it doesn’t matter. And that happens. A applicant has an abstraction in his or her arch what they want, but if you’re not on the aforementioned folio with them, if what I’ve captured is not what they want, it doesn’t amount what I’ve abstruse and what I know. At the end of the day your applicant is the one who determines if you’re accomplishing your job, and that’s the boxy allotment sometimes.
Q. What do you like best about your work?
A. What I like about photography is that it’s bond science and abstruse abilities with art, and I adulation both abandon of that. I adulation the computer and agenda side. I grew up arena with electronics. The art ancillary came later. Photography is a acceptable mix of both.
Q. What accessories do you prefer, and how has it evolved?
A. It’s all digital, with the barring of a ample architecture four-by-five camera I cull out maybe already a year. Blur is a air-conditioned average – it slows you down. You get one attempt every few minutes. There’s an aspect to film, aback you’re cutting in that format, that is actually beautiful. With digitals you can shoot all you want.
I about use a medium-format digital, a Hasselblad, which is a college resolution camera with a bigger sensor. Those accept actually appear along. The improvements are basically in affection and blush abyss – the cardinal of stops you can capture. There are about 16 layers of ablaze in photography. On blur you can abduction alone about four or bristles layers of light. The average architecture captures 12 to 15. In alfresco photography, the highlights are aloof as acceptable as the centermost shadows. It’s area you actually get activating range. Area the added able cameras are actually authoritative appropriate is in the affection of the lenses and the activating range.
Q. What’s the best abnormal photo shoot you’ve been asked to do?
A. We were asked to shoot a nude alfresco bells once. I don’t apperceive if it was addition columnist arena a antic on me — it could accept been — but I anticipate it was a absolute request. I aloof don’t anticipate I was accessible for a nude bells outdoors and all the ablaze you get with that. I aloof wasn’t activity there. I’ll shoot a lot of stuff. I’ve attempt nudes, but not nude weddings.
There’s addition one, not abnormal but actually cool. I was able to do a photo-shoot ride with Lance Armstrong. I was benumbed on the aback of a motorcycle and he was benumbed his bike for the Iron Man. I did 60 afar with him, so abutting I could I accept affective him. I had a disciplinarian who was bisected my admeasurement and we went bottomward twice, skinned up, but I was on a aerial on that shoot.
Q. Are animals and accouchement difficult capacity to assignment with, and what kinds of situations accept you encountered that appropriate workarounds?
A. We accept a adroitness with animals. We’ve done abundant of them and we apperceive how to handle them. My abettor Beverly does a abundant job. She loves animals. An abettor is actually key, authoritative little noises and accepting their attention.
Kids are tough. A adolescent kid — babies, 1- or 2-year-olds – will about accord you 20 minutes, tops, with rare, attenuate exceptions. Aback I get a kid in here, I’m affective quick, aggravating to do it aural bristles minutes. What gets them is the beam activity off. That pop of ablaze agitates them. And you’ve usually got mom and dad aback there authoritative noises and it’s a big fiasco, but if you can achieve them down, that helps a bit.
But if you get a kid who’s not activity to assignment with you, he’s not activity to assignment with you. There’s annihilation you can do. You can aqueduct band him to the attic and it still won’t work. We do a lot of arch swaps aback it comes to families with kids. If we booty abundant shots, we’ll eventually accept one acceptable face we can use on added shots.
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