By: Scott Campbell
Most accomplished practitioners of the visual arts generally can, when pressed, produce an academic degree or two that confirms their formal training.
Although Ali Waxman attended Temple University, the 43-year-old Hershey photographer has come by much of his conceptual and technical prowess by working with and learning from other masters of the medium.
“I lived in London, England where I met professional photographers Peter Yumi and Os Ososment,” says Waxman.
“In this country, I’ve been influenced by Thomas Hawk, Daniel Kreiger and Brad Rossi. Each of them has been a source of technical advice that has been of great benefit. I also learn from online forums such as Flickr and Google Plus. I’m constantly researching and exposing myself to new ideas. Photography has changed since I began, and you have to keep abreast of new developments.”
One look at Waxman’s efforts, and the observer sees work that pushes and exceeds the boundaries of convention. All of those creative impulses that take form in his mind’s eye are there to ponder and admire on paper.
Even the commercial side of his vocation demands it. “I did a select group of weddings last year,” he adds, “because clients need to be comfortable with my style.”
Like most serious artists, Waxman is not obsessed with equipment.
“Sure, I’d like to have a $3,000 camera body,” he quips, “but it’s the subject and composition that are my primary objectives. Actually, the arsenal of lenses that I have for my cameras is what really makes the difference in my work.”
He favors a shallow depth of field (which is commonly referred to as “bokeh”) in which the main subject is sharply in focus, and the background is not. Waxman also enjoys working with timed exposures, which can illustrate and dramatize motion.
The artist understands that the conceptual nature of his photography is supported by strong compositional structure.
“I follow the rule of thirds,” he says. “The image is subdivided into nine equal sections, three across and three down. Each section must be a sound composition on its own, which ensures that the whole will also be one. It’s basically framing the subject well.”
“I’m constantly researching and exposing myself to new ideas.” – Ali Waxman
Waxman is married and the father of two children. “My family has been my best and most cooperative subjects,” he says. An image of his wife, entitled Mohawk Mama, is included in + One Collection, a 2012 hard cover publication by Google Plus.
“There were entries from all around the world, and I was fortunate to be included,” he says.
Shooting athletic events for Derry Township School District has become a recent gig for Waxman, the result of his son’s participation in wrestling. An extended exposure shot that portrays two wrestlers in successive positions during a match was among the first, and helped to launch him into photographing other sports as well.
Waxman was raised in Philadelphia and then moved to Los Angeles, where he “cut his teeth” on his iconic series of street photographs. Describing this segment of his portfolio, he explains, “I’ll politely ask strangers if I may take their image.
And I’ll have them do something to make it more interesting.” He points to photos in which the subjects’ faces show extreme movement, but frozen by a rapid shutter. Consistent with his edgy modus operandi, Waxman avers, “Those are from the shaky-face series.”
Interested readers can see Waxman’s photography at The Second Floor Gallery in Mechanicsburg or at his upcoming November exhibit at the NewVox Art Gallery in Bethlehem, Pa.