Dispatches: Ross Whitaker

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Finally. I got him. Whitaker. He with the most incredible photo-history and one of the funniest photographers you will ever meet. Imagine growing up in Los Angeles. Imagine attending Brooks Institute, back when it mattered, and then imagine hitting the global career in stride. Imagine being the studio manager for the likes of Michael O’Neill and Arthur Elgort. Imagine running additional New York studios for several decades more. Imagine working in Europe as a fashion photographer during the heyday of editorial life. Ross did it all.

But this is not what impressed me most about my time with Mr. Whitaker. What impressed me most was his memory of every single art director, art buyer, editor, lab owner, assistant and fellow photographer dating back thirty years. Every name came back as if he had spoken with them the day before. This is uncommon and it proves to me his profound love of his chosen field, and also proves that he is a true professional with a real understanding of far more than the nuts and bolts of making pictures. I don’t remember speaking with any other photographer who had such a finite memory of people and experience. Impressive to say the least.

Ross also has a tremendous knowledge of the history of photography, something I have an appreciation for because it gives someone context as to what has been done and where they fit in the overall history of our field. Now, pace yourself. This is the first in what will be many subsequent interviews. I knew this would happen. There is just too much to cover.

Also, did I mention Ross has a dog? He does. A white one. Jasper. And Jasper wasn’t thrilled with being cut out of the conversation, so as you will hear, he made his presence known in a variety of ways. In short, Jasper 1, Interview 0.

I was also able to get a glimpse of the Whitaker archive which is so remarkable I can’t stand it. Ross has all his negatives going back to his very first experiments with the camera. The life and experiences that live on the contacts are incredible. If you take one thing away from this interview it might be this. Don’t worry about it. Just shoot. Things will work out. But shoot you must, A LOT, if you want to understand yourself, your photography and what the entire mess actually means.

Whitaker himself, row two.

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