Photographer Aaron Warkov | Teen Ink

Photographer Aaron Warkov

January 12, 2012
By TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
254 articles 202 photos 945 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told."-Skandar Keynes

"When it’

Aaron Warkov is a professional photographer out of Brooklyn, New York. He has spent the past 20 years a part of the trade. He photographed the cast of Nickelodeon's Victorious for their promotional ads. These photos have been used for Victorious posters, DVDs and the its soundtrack.

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Mr. Warkov for Teen Ink.

Rachel- Please tell us a little about yourself.

Aaron Warkov- Hm, that's a big one!

Let's see, I've been a photographer for about twenty years. I started out shooting in Europe for a while and then I moved back to the United States. I've worked all over the country; east-coast, west-coast, south-west, mid-west, everywhere!

I'm a big active person. I do a lot of outdoors things, so some of my work encompasses a lot of action; sometimes it's sports, other times it's getting people to really move and have fun and look natural, or at least look good when they're doing it.

What else? ...I don't know, what other questions would you like?

RH- Well, why don't you tell us a little bit about your family and what you like to do when you aren't working?

AW- Okay, I have two sons, one is twelve and one is fifteen. One of them is a soccer goalie, so I spend a lot of time taking him to soccer practices or tournaments or away-games, whenever I'm not traveling. My older son is an amazing artist. I support him in all his arts and his endeavors.

When I'm not traveling, I either go mountain biking, road biking or surfing sometimes (when there are good waves). In the wintertime, I do some snowboarding, or just try to go someplace warm to get away from the snow! {laughs}

RH- How did you first become interested in photography?

AW- My father was an art teacher, and he taught photography, so I started learning some of it when I was really young. Then I was traveling in Europe, when I was eighteen, and I picked up a camera and just started shooting friends, and then I started shooting models, and I started getting into it more. I was sort of encouraged by one of the model agents in Italy when I was staying there, and also a photographer who I befriended, who is, you know, older and has been around; he gave me some pointers. And I just started shooting and I kept shooting.

I stayed over in Europe for about three years, and then I ended up moving back to New York City where I was continuing to do photography, but I was also studying some acting. I still wasn't sure that photography was going to be the end-all for me then, at that time.

But then it turned out [that] everyone was liking what I did, so I just continued with it and just kinda grew my business over time.

RH- Why did you choose to move to Europe?

AW- Well, I didn't choose to move there. I met an agent who invited me to go over there; I had done a little bit of modeling in my early years, so I ended up with a chance to go over there to do some of that.

RH- What was your favorite place to visit while you were there?

AW- I really loved Italy in general; I liked the food and the life and the people. It was very a family oriented place. People were much warmer and more open there. The pace wasn't so hectic. People really just worked to live, instead of just live to work.

So, I liked [Italy] a lot.

I ended up spending time in France and Germany and Spain, Switzerland... They were all really beautiful and they were all really fun to visit! But I guess my heart was kind of in Italy while I was [in Europe].

RH- What's been your favorite photo-shoot that you've done?

AW- Hmm... Good question... Favorite photo-shoot?

Actually, my favorite photo-shoot that I've done and still really love is when I went to Maui with my family. I went down to shoot a surfing contest in Hookipa, which is a local surf beach there. I got to kind of got to go around with my camera and shoot all the pros, and all the guys who I had admired when I was a kid.

I ended up just doing this whole life-style kind of piece. I went around all these guys hanging out, and it was very inter-generational: You have these guys who were in their fifties hanging out with people who were in their thirties and their twenties, and then little kids. It was just this big tribe.

I just sort of photographed that whole tribe around the surf contest, and I really like the images that I did from that. It wasn't so much of an assignment as something that was really near to my heart and that made me happy to do.

RH- Explain how the process of a photo-shoot works from start to print.

AW- Well, if it's a commercial photo-shoot, the process is: I have either an agent who attracts business for me, or somebody's interested in what I do, they have a layout of the project and ideas of what they want to accomplish; they come to me; sometimes we have a meeting, other times we just agree on the perimeters of the project. I have to estimate it, and cast it sometimes for the talent, along with bringing my own crew and equipment; it depends if it's a local shoot or if it's something where we have to travel; there's sometimes, you know, producers are generally involved who take your basic idea and make sure that all the people, all the timing, all the loose ends are tied up, everybody's got tickets and hotels.

Then you all end up there (wherever that happens to be). Generally you go around with the art director from the advertising agency, design firm or company and you do a little mini sort of location scout of the area that you're really interested in shooting, so you know what you're getting in to. Generally [you do this] at least the day before you're gonna shoot so you're prepared.

Then you set a firm schedule around when you think the areas are better to shoot. The crew and models are all informed of what their call times are. Everybody ends up at the first set (whenever that time is). We get everybody on board with what it is that you're trying to do. You have a sort of little talk with everybody about the style of the shoot. You know, what the makeup should be like, what their attitude should be like on set, whether it's a high-energy [shoot] or quiet and thoughtful. We just give them n idea of what they'll be doing.

Then we start shooting and I start directing. Whether action, or where they're supposed to be, if it's an action shot, you know, what they have to do, what mark they have to hit...

If it's just fun, like the Victorious shoot, then it's more just working with them, making sure the lighting is really just perfect for their faces, making sure they're really happy; the way the light is, the way their clothing is, 'cause you want to make sure their image is protected, that they're showing themselves to the world the way they want, which makes them much happier. {laughs}

RH- Since you mentioned the Victorious shoot, tell us about working with the cast.

AW- Oh, they were all great! They were really fantastic kids. [There was] no attitude. Everybody was really into doing the shoot. I would show them pictures as [we were] going along. We'd have a monitor plugged in, since we were shooting digitally and they could go over and take a look at some shots. We could say, “Hey, this is my favorite so far! Let's do some more like this!” And they'd all be really willing and gung-ho to kind of jump in and do some more shots to try and make it the best possible.

They were all super sweet kids, you know? Like I said, no attitude. They were surprisingly unspoiled kids.

They also had tutors on set to keep up with their homework, so they were all doing that. A lot of them are looking at college. You know, so they're not just thinking, “Oh, this is it for me. I'm only gonna be an actor and I'm done.” Or they were thinking of college to study more acting. But either way they were all very motivated, intelligent people. Fun to work with.

RH- Was there a specific theme for the photo-shoot?

AW- Well, no. I can't say there was a theme other than, you know, Victorious is the show, so we shot on set in front of some of those custom lockers they have there in the school. [That way] we would have some things that were on set, but then a lot of the other things that we were [shooting] were just on a big, white, seamless piece of paper that you light so there's no shadows.

You just shoot them on there, and then later the art department can take their shots and put them in whatever background they need to for posters or for PR work, or give those [shots] to magazines, so the magazines can then strip them out (which is when you take out the person from the background and be able to place them in another background).

So, really, a lot of the shoots I do for [Victorious] are so that they have as many possibilities for using these shots. It has to be kind of general and flexible, I guess you'd have to say.

RH- Was there something exciting, or unexpected, that happened during the shoot?

AW- Yes! At the end of the shoot, Victoria Justice had some posters of herself that she was signing, and she signed one for my son! She said that they would mail it to him. So, she signed it with a cute personal note to him. He was 14 at the time, so he was pretty happy to get that poster in the mail, signed by her and personally addressed to him. That was really nice.

RH- What's your favorite subject to shoot?

AW- Well, I would say my favorite is people, other than, you know, objects only, or scenes or food or something, like some other photographers do.

In general, what I like to shoot is ideas with people where we're creating situations that could feel real, even though it might be a little ideal; a little more aspirational. But trying to hit that moment where they're laughing, they're really laughing, you feel like they're generally really happy to be doing what they're doing. Then it's sort of infectious that way.

So, those are my favorite kind of shoots. Ones where we're given a little more freedom to work within the idea to create spontaneous shots that just ring true.

RH- Who has been your favorite person to work with?

AW- Well, if you're leaving it at that I'll have to say, because I do a lot of traveling, one of my favorite people to work with is my first assistant, Victor. He has become kind of like a little brother to me. He's like family. And when you're traveling a lot, it can be kind of lonely out there, because you're just spending a lot of time on the road or in hotels or flying different places. Yes, you're around a lot of people, but [they're] a lot of people that don't really know you that well.

So, having somebody that's kind of a consistent on the road with you really helps to make your life balanced. You can have, you know, dinners or hang out or just talk about the day's work and things with somebody who gets where you are. And that's really a nice thing.

RH- If you could work alongside any photographer, or photograph any person, who would it be and why?

AW- I would say it would have been (even though she has passed on) Margaret Bourke-White. She was a famous photographer around the turn of the century to around the 30s era. She was really amazing, very prolific photographer. She traveled all over the world, which was really unusual for a woman of that time. She photographed, you know, Russian peasants, some of the Russian revolution, Industrial revolution and just did all of these amazing things. I think that was a pretty exciting time to be a photographer.

So, I admire what she did and she's somebody that I wish I had been around [when she was alive] to work with her.

RH- What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

AW- To go and assist. Once you go to art school and get your basic training, when you feel confident with that, then I would say, Find a photographer that you really, really, really admire whose work is in the vein of what you would like to be doing. It doesn't have to be, “Oh, I want to do exactly what this person does!”

But you could [look for] the kind of clients the person has or the kind of magazines the person works with since there's so many different kinds of photography. You find a way to contact [that person], find a way to say, “This is the second part of my school process. I want to assist you. I wanna sweep your floors. I wanna make you coffee. I wanna do whatever I can to be around and to learn and to understand the business and the aesthetics. I want to have more experience actually on set, traveling, dealing with the business side of things, the client side of things.”

Just figure that you get out of school, but just figure that you've got a couple more years to spend learning all of those things. If you apply yourself and really try to learn while you're working with somebody like that, I think then you're set to go out and understand how the business works and how to move in the photography world.

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