Abel Perez is an entrepreneur, computer programmer, world traveler and a maniac photographer. He bends reality with pixels to create futuristic elements and arts.
The following is an interview with Abel Perez where he discusses about photography, gears, inspiration, composition, post processing and Instagram. The interview has been edited for brevity.
Niaz: Thank you, Abel, for taking the time to join us at eTalks. We are thrilled to have you.
Abel: You’re very welcome and thank you for having me!
Niaz: You’re a photographer based out of LA. But you have been traveling all around the world. For the people who don’t know about you, can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?
Abel: It’s interesting you mention traveling and photography, I think I should probably explain how that came about. I’m actually a technology entrepreneur and mostly spend my work time running a tech company I co-founded. I work 100% remote and it’s because of this that I travel so much. The fact that I’ve managed to divorce myself from the office is what has set the stage for my passion in photography. Before I got into technology I was exclusively making Art in various mediums and genres (Ink, Aerosol, Tattoos, Murals) but quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. So I basically parked my artist life in favor of a career in technology. I always held onto the idea of resuming my core passion for being an Artist. When I came across photography, I realized that this was it, a quick way to be an artist and a non-intrusive activity to my career. So to answer your question, I’m a tech dude who loves photography and travel.
Niaz: That’s wonderful. So how did you get started with photography? Did you study it in school?
Abel: I actually have no formal education in photography but I have put a significant amount of time in educating myself. I’ve spent many hours researching different photography techniques across many genres and have definitely taken learning Photoshop very seriously. I’ve also attended several workshops with some very talented professional photographers.
Niaz: You have been making science fiction and futuristic arts. I really admire your futuristic approach to photography. How did you ended up with this concept?
Abel: I rarely ever plan to create futuristic concepts and imagery but for whatever reasons my brain seems to gravitate towards a futuristic feel. Perhaps it has something to do with me implicitly always being on a constant move forward.
Niaz: How and where do you find your inspiration?
Abel: Inspiration is a tricky thing and very ephemeral. I feel very fortunate to have figured out a way to stay inspired more often than not. Inspiration is random, it comes when you least expect it and disappears at a blink of an eye so the challenge is how to stay inspired. When I run out of inspiration I’ll simply move on to a genre or style of photographer I’ve never seen or executed before. I’ll research it and find the photographers who are really good in that space. That usually takes to me to a place where I’m exposed to new techniques and ways to take reality into the digital. Like a kid in a candy store, I get very excited and run off with tons of inspiration for my next creation. You can actually see this in my Instagram feed, there is zero consistency in my style, clearly a reflection of me chasing inspiration instead of waiting for it.
Niaz: What type of cameras do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens set-up?
Abel: I shoot with a Nikon D600 and occasionally the Sony A7S but I’m not culturally divided by let’s say Nikon and Canon. If you give me a Canon, I’ll run with it. Even though camera technology has come a long way, I think at the end of the day it’s more about the creative process than the technology. I have several favorite lenses simply because I shoot various styles of photography. I love the 14-24mm f2.8 for cityscape, aerial, landscapes and the 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f.14 for portraiture, minimal and abstract shots.
Niaz: Your compositions are really complex, thoughtful, and innovative. How do you approach composition? How much work goes into it?
Abel: My compositions are usually derived from multiple sources of inspiration. For example, I might come across a photographer who does amazing innovative surreal minimalism and shortly after find myself walking down some alley in Budapest with interesting and unique architecture. Then before you know it, I’m in a coffee shop sketching a surreal minimal style concept of an alley in Budapest. I don’t spend too much time sketching the concept, it’s usually a super rough idea but enough to get me going. Often times all the magic happens when I’m sitting at my computer in Photoshop. My compositions evolve with every element I bring into the frame and often times end up being completely different than the original concept. I’d say not too much work goes into the complete process but then again that’s relative to what I’ve been doing for a pretty long time now. The complexity in the end result is just a reflection of integrating multiple unrelated elements into one cohesive picture that makes fantasy look like reality.
Niaz: How much post processing helps to bring your ideas from composition to final reality? Which software, tools, and apps do you use for post processing?
Abel: Post processing is a big part of my process mainly because I aim to create artistic results instead of pure photography. I know many photographers frown at post processing or should I say “photoshopping” and pride themselves in making all the necessary decisions in camera to yield the perfect shot and that’s a beautiful thing but for me it’s quite the opposite. I’m satisfied with capturing a not so ideal shot because I know once I jump behind the photoshop wheel the image will arrive at an acceptable state. So I would say post processing is a huge part of my workflow.
I mainly use Photoshop, actually almost exclusively Photoshop.
Niaz: Now there are so many sites and apps to share photographs. Why have you chosen Instagram as a platform for sharing your art?
Abel: I think at the moment Instagram is probably one of the best platforms if not the best to reach massive international exposure in a very simple way. And I say at the moment because we all now how social media sites/apps come and go. If I think back, I don’t even think I made a conscious decision to use Instagram as a platform for delivering my Art. I think like most of us, I just came aboard through curiosity and over time in turned into an extremely useful channel for exposure and connectivity with like minded individuals.
Niaz: How long did it take you to create your own community on Instagram?
Abel: It’s taken me a while even though I’m pretty serious about maintaining constant interaction with my followers and consistent delivery of Art. There’s many variables that go into building a solid community on Instagram. To better answer your question, it didn’t happen overnight and it definitely took at least a year of solid dedication. And of course I’m only speaking for myself here, I’ve seen others have instant fame and others struggle to get recognition despite their hard efforts.
Niaz: What are your tips for beginners on building a community on Instagram?
Abel: There’s a lot of competition on Instagram these days, so many talented photographers, so I would say to focus on being unique and capturing things and places in ways that have not been seen before. This will help set you apart and get peoples attention. Once your photography is on point then I’d say equally important is being interactive. Instagram definitely supports the phrase “you get what you give” so go out there and give people love by liking and commenting on their photos. I would also suggest targeting the aggregators and hubs, they’re a great way to get exposure across many communities of photographers. And lastly, keep your delivery consistent, try to post at least once a day and avoid the occasional selfie and drinking beer at the bar shot.
Niaz: What is your most favorite hashtag?
Abel: I can’t say I’m partial to any specific hashtags these days. Once in a while I’ll chase a few hashtags related to cities I’m traveling through mainly for discovery of locations and photographers to connect with. I do like hashtags like #TheWorldNeedsMoreSpiralStaircases simply because the majority of photos tagged are highly relevant to the tag and because I love spiral staircase of course.
Niaz: Who are some of your most favorite Instagrammers?
Abel: This changes very often since it depends on what my current mood of inspiration is. I was just recently experimenting with compositing Elephants into cityscapes and abandoned locations and found myself favoriting @nois7’s account simply because he has a few really nice composites of Elephants in his feed. I also really like @lovepaperplane she has an amazing imagination and extremely well way of expressing it. Actually everyone I follow on Instagram in one way or another are some of my favorite instagrammers. Everyone has their own style and uniqueness in expressing what they see through the viewfinder.
Niaz: What is the one most important lesson that you have learned since you started taking photographs and creating art?
Abel: Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s never too late to reinvent your self. I look back at some of my first shots and edits and it amazes me how far I’ve come. My endeavors as a photographer have shown me that I can do and be anything I want in life.
Niaz: What does photography mean to you?
Abel: Photography is much more than the definition of the word describes. To me it’s a fabric that connects people from around the world through imagination and passion. I’ve met people of all walks from around the world and I’ve seen places that are breath taking all because of photography. Photography is and will forever be a beautiful thing.
Niaz: How do you see photography as a career?
Abel: Since I’ve established my career in technology I rarely think of photography as a career path. You hear people say all the time that you should work where your passion is but I have a different perspective on that matter. Working where your passion is can be tricky, if you’re passionate about something that doesn’t have a high return on investment then you’re bound to a set salary or compensation. If you find the career path that makes you the most money then what you should do is spend your money in the thing that you’re most passionate about. And this is exactly what I do, technology is where I grind and photography is where I play. Depending on making money where your passion is can quickly poison your passion and cripple the ability to genuinely be creative. I know this too well because I once was a starving artist but this is just my opinion and obviously there are thousands of well-established photographers who makes tons of money and love what they do.
Niaz: What’s your future plan for your photography?
Abel: The only plan is to keep going, move forward and to continue to create and explore and meet great people through the journey. Hopefully and this is very important to me but I want to be able to inspire others the way that I’ve been inspired. It brings me great joy to know and feel that I’m part of a movement, an era, where photography and art are the driving forces that yield beautiful interpretations of our times.
Niaz: If you were advising a young photographer today, what would your words of wisdom be?
Abel: I would say “Freedom is the new money.” Free yourself from any constraints that prevent you from being creative. Materialize your visions, express your individuality no matter what the trends are. Keep going and be consistent, patience is truly a wisdom and mastery will come with time.
Niaz: Where do people find you to know more about your and your works? (Website, Facebook, Twitter …..)
Abel: You can find me on Instagram at @abelperezgram. I post daily so this is probably the best place to tune into my creative outlet.
Niaz: Any last comment?
Abel: I think I’ve exhausted everything I have at the moment lol.
Niaz: Abel, thank you so much for sharing us your incredible ideas. Your works have been very impressive. We are wishing you very good luck for all of your upcoming great endeavors and enormous success. Cheers mate!
Abel: Thank you for asking such great questions, they’ve definitely evoked self introspecting thoughts that have perhaps helped me learned a little bit about myself. Again thanks for having me and wish eTalks the greatest success!
Editor’s Note: You can follow Abel on Instagram at @abel.psd. The interview has been conducted by Niaz. He is the founder and curator of eTalks. You can follow him on Instagram at @neohumanity. And I am Ava Madigan at @lavatl
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