Rick Staehling - Art DirectorSunday, October 08, 2006
I first met Rick Staehling about 27 years ago at Vancouver Magazine. From him I learned the ropes of shooting for magazines and a few things more. In many ways an editorial photographer (one who takes photographs to illustrate articles and essays in magazines) has to be subsirvient to the needs of the art director. A good art director will make the photographer aware of this in a most gentle manner. And Staehling was gentle, except once (even though he tried his best). He called me up one day and told me that he wanted me to photograph some sewing machines. He mentioned that since money was involved I would perhaps rise to the situation and accept the assignment. I hated the job. To make it all worse Staehling used a printing technique (mezzotint) to make my fine grain photographs look like coarse Grey Poupon Mustard. Quite a few years later, at the opening of a group photographic exhibition at a local gallery, one of my co-exhibitors (a woman) told me, "Alex I really admire you, I could never photograph sewing machines." I almost punched her in the nose! It was that evening that it finally dawned on me that Staehling, in gently assigning me to photograph just about everything that could be photographed, trained me to understand that commercial photography and art photography could go hand in hand without any conflict as long as I kept my pride in check.