Date: 03/04/2014 | By: Mathieu
The Inspired Eye: a conversation with Olivier Duong and Don Springer
One of the things I like the most about my job at MirrorLessons is discovering work created by other photographers on the web. Sometimes they are similar to what we do, other times they offer a different approach that can be very enriching.
A very good example I discovered recently is The Inspired Eye: a website, a blog, a bi-monthly magazine, a podcast and many other things but most importantly, a tribute to photography and photographers who are working in the present day.
The Inspired Eye is the result of a casual encounter on the net between two photographers, Don Springer and Olivier Duong. Despite having never met in real life, they hit it off right away, and from their desire to share their passion for photography was born a website that is overflowing with interesting content that is both highly readable and, as the magazine’s name suggests, inspiring.
Don Springer is a street photographer who has been documenting his experiences and changes in his life since the age of 13. Olivier Duong is a Haitian-French-Vietnamese documentary photographer and graphic designer.
Since this is a very personal project, we’ve decided to let the protagonists explain why this project exists and what the future goals of The Inspired Eye are.
ML: The Inspired Eye is run by two photographers who met over a blog post, which I find quite interesting and “modern”. How did that evolve exactly?
Don: Around 1972 I was leaning against a tree with Minor White. Minor said to me, “Don, some day a young guy is gonna reach out to you with a wonderful idea. You have to learn and practice as much of life as you can and be ready for him.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, Olivier probably has a less romantic version.
Olivier: Heh, I was predicted, who knew? More seriously though, the blog post part is just the tip of the iceberg, we had similar ideas inside us for a long time. Don wanted to create a photographic center way back in the day, and I had the hopes to create magazines and other stuff when I was asked to design products for fake companies (I’m a graphic designer). The blog post then is the visible part of providence, there was much more stuff in the background
ML: The Inspired Eye is the magazine you wished you had, because traditional magazines don’t satisfy you. Did you always feel this way about magazines in general or is there something you could still buy and read with interest?
Don: There are a few magazines that I read on a regular basis. I only do digital stuff so paper is out. I think I subscribe to around 7 that I find interesting. Supporting the community means supporting your competition as well. People find our issues interesting and they buy them so it’s my pleasure to try to keep the competition in business buy purchasing theirs.
Olivier: I personally don’t have time for magazine subscriptions, when I have some free time I rather spend it with my family.
ML: I like the “community” side of your project, especially the bi-monthly magazine which focuses on what you call your “heroes”, the unknown photographers that are working today. How do you select them?
Don: Hmmm, heroes. I don’t have any heroes outside of the soldiers that defend their country, regardless of where that is. For me, I look a man or woman face to face and then find a respect in their eyes that hopefully is returned.
For the shooters I interview, well it’s like this. I look at many, many photos and if something grabs me, well I save the shooters name. I then move on and look at more and after a while, I have a list of names. That’s the easy part, step 1 of selection. Step 2 gets me going over and over again and again to try to find the magic I seek. See, when you look at someones work, you’re seeing who and what they are or achieve to be. So, maybe someone has that magic and it’s just there and I know it’s a good interview. Then there’s the real hard worker that produces these images that maybe some are really nice and yet some are almost there but not quite. Well if I can see the efforts and kinda feel they are connected but not fully yet…well, that’s the most exciting for me. This experience of exposure in the magazine and blog etc, well…that person will hopefully grow into a fine shooter.
It ain’t about stroking ego, it’s about giving support.
Olivier: Well, fact is, they are everywhere. Most people never care to click on their Twitter follower’s website for example. Well, we do! The process to select the photographers for Inspired Eye, we stop looking up to already established photographers and start looking right and left. Chances are, there are great photographers you didn’t know about.
ML: Speaking of heroes, do you have one in particular? Someone who has influenced your style or your personal concept of photography?
Don: If I actually had a hero in photography and maybe even life…it would be Kneeland (Ding) McNulty, Curator of Prints and Pictures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Olivier: Probably Don Springer, the guy above. Yeah we’re partners and all, but he always has the pieces of the puzzle I’m missing.
ML: Street photography seems to be at the heart of your photography and also the magazine. How do you think this genre is evolving in the present day?
Don: You know…digital photography has brought the street to the mainstream. The good thing is that the street is now accessible to many that wouldn’t venture out in it back then, maybe some don’t today. There’s a group of shooters that feel that “Street is an Attitude”. I don’t buy that. The street is life, life is how you live it or wish to live it. Today and even back in the olden days of the 70’s…hmmm…shooters go to the street to try to find something to make photos of. The real good shooters go out to find a piece of themselves. So it seems to me that the only difference between the past and now is that there are numerous more shooters out there. I think that’s great. I love bumping into a shooter out there…you look at each other and you realise that you are amongst the Lost Poets of The World. You smile at each other and then look for another……CLICK!
Olivier: Nowadays some think street is just about getting close as you can, or to catch people in trashy situations.
I like calling Street Photography “Life photography”, it breaks the preconceptions of what “street” actually means. The question is, how to photograph life ?
ML: Monochrome is another dominant aspect of The Inspired Eye. Is it a coincidence or is black and white an integral part of the project?
Don: Yeah, my fault. I’ve been trying to get Olivier to explain that Color Stuff to me but well….I just don’t get it.
Olivier: Plus, we are both BW shooters. Does not help. We feature color when we can get our hands on it. Look at the latest issue (8 at time of writing)
ML: Will the magazine be on paper one day or do you wish to keep it digital only?
Don: We would probably like to stay PDF. Circulation is better and we are always on time with delivery. USPS would mess that up.
Olivier: Just made a post on the print version of the Magazine. April Fools, hehe. It will probably stay PDF, just easier and less hassle. Sometimes too much complexity (like a print mag would require) kills the creativity.
ML: The Inspired Eye has multiple identities: blog, magazine, podcast, e-books and Lightroom presets. What is the next step?
Don: Can you give me tomorrow nights Lottery Numbers?
Olivier: Don’t pay attention to him. Things are going to get VERY interesting real soon.
ML: On your personal blogs, you seem to talk more about cameras (and in the end, what photographer doesn’t?). Since cameras are one of the main subject here at MirrorLessons, I cannot skip the last question: which is your favorite camera for street photography?
Olivier: Without the shadow of a doubt…the Ricoh GRD IV, thanks so much for the interview
Don: The Fuji XP1 without a doubt. Thanks very much for the interest and taking the time to do this.
ML: Thank you, guys, for the nice interview!
The Inspired Eye magazine is available here! Don’t miss out the latest issue.
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