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CLINT McLEAN

Today drool brings you it’s first ever interview.

I present to you Clint McLean: photographer, photo editor, teacher and
art director.

His personal work gets shown in galleries, he assigns photographers
(including me) for a bunch of Globe and Mail glossy magazines, he art
directs for some kool rags and he shoots for magazines too. Whew!
(Check out his web site for complete details and to see all
the pix.)

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TF- So, Clint, you have all these different jobs. Which one makes you
the most nervous?

CMcL- Luckily I’ve never been the nervous type. I think my emotional
range is abnormally small and doesn’t really get into the nervous spectrum.
Since i work so many places for so many people it’s become normal for me
to be in new situations and I think it’s that lack of familiarity that generally
makes people nervous. I’ve become comfortable in the unfamiliar and am
generally secure that I can do a good job with the job at hand. That said
however…launching my website made me a little nervous because I spend
a lot of time art directing and instructing and critiquing photographers - many
of whom are fantastic - so I want my photos to back me up and not undermine
me. I haven’t sent it out much yet so i guess the jury is still out?

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TF- I think you’re lucky to be not-nervous. I’m a nervous nelly, despite (like
you) always going into unfamiliar places and having to perform. I’ve trained
myself to use my nervousness as a kind of energy. Interesting, though, what
you say about your web site and having your pix back you up because they’ll
be seen by your peers. This is how I feel whenever I submit selects from an
editorial shoot. I want to please my client and I want to please myself,
sometimes not in that particular order. Do you use different techniques
or thought processes when you’re shooting personal work vs editorial stuff?

CMcL- Completely. When I’m shooting for myself I’m shooting things I’m
drawn to. Currently i think salt looks really sexy . 2 years ago it was wet
dirt. I’m also working on a project of football (soccer) goal posts that I’m
shooting in all the same countries as salt. Shooting for myself let’s me
send myself to far off lands and be totally selfish with what and how I
shoot. That’s not to say i don’t give it forethought or that I don’t look for
feedback and advice on my work. Lynne Cohen has taken me under her
wing a little with the salt and the football project and my work will be
stronger for it. I think it’s important to seek feedback…but with personal
work - if it really is personal and not just another way of saying self-assigned
promo material - you have the luxury of being able to ignore anything you
want. With editorial, you’ve always gotta think of the magazine first.
Sometimes you need to shoot differently than you would for yourself
and have to be prepared for a shot that’s not your best to be chosen
because it suits the magazine or article best. There’s upsides and
downsides to editorial work but personal work is all ice-cream.

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TF- Lynne Cohen was my teacher way back when. I was all set (in my
mind) to be a fashion photographer, then Lynne showed me a bunch
of other possibilities and I’ve never been the same since. Lets talk
about salt. I guess the obvious question is: Why salt?

CMcL- I learned more from Lynne in 1 1/2hours talking about my work
than I did in 3 months of thinking about it on my own. I really like the
way she thinks. I hadn’t realized she taught you but i’m not surprised
she opened your eyes to new ways of seeing.

senegal salt _6.jpgbolivia salt_4.jpg

As for the salt, it’s a little hard for me to articulate- partly because it’s
just something I simply find aesthetically beautiful and that’s like trying
to explain why some people prefer red-heads to brunettes. I prefer salt
to sunsets. Typically I am drawn to the mundane. To the beautiful and
mundane. Salt has this fascinating history which makes it more interest-
ing perhaps on an academic level, but my attraction to it is seeing it in
it’s natural environment. I’m not interested in processed salt, and I don’t
salt my food. It’s salt landscapes that moves me. I think the fact that it
is so taken for granted and yet so necessary endears it to me also. Salt
is an underdog. Salt harvesting takes a lot of different forms and so far
I’ve found them all to be magical. Maybe if I’d grown up around salt I’d
take it for granted the way I take wheat fields for granted. I have seen
a lot of combines in fields but I’ve only just begun seeing salt workers
dragging row boats overflowing with salt to shore to unload into giant
piles to dry. Or driving on top of salt for days and seeing nothing but
salt to horizon except the odd salt worker steeping it into piles before
it’s trucked away. I like the collaboration between nature and man and
what they create together.

bolivia salt_1.jpg

TF- Last question: You seem to be very articulate. Do you think that being
able to articulate what you’re working towards helps you get there?

CMcL- Really? I think I have a hard time articulating some things – mainly
about my personal work because it’s often driven by feelings or a way of
seeing that’s not necessarily based on norms. Having a sort of verbal filter
that content needs to fit through helps with the editing process though.
Project or shoot mandates can be valuable. Certainly being able to articulate
what I want when I’m commissioning photographers or critiquing portfolios
is necessary to get us on the same page. I hope I can get them to feel the
shot and not just understand what ingredients I’m looking for in it. That’s
where they really put their personal stamp on it which is what I’m after.
I want their look on a collaborative approach…..sometimes I do really bad
drawings for them also which may help…or hinder…

TF- Yes, Really! The reason I asked that question is because even though
when I’m on the ground shooting I try to be totally open, there are certain
frameworks I try to keep in my head. I remember coming back from a
personal shooting trip in California. I’d shot a bunch of very loose landscapes
with small figures in them. I wasn’t sure what I’d done. Upon reflection I
realized that all the photos had the feel of me coming in in the middle of
something. Once I could articulate that, once I had those words in my brain,
I found I could more easily to follow the vein.

Okay, I really don’t want the last word here so lets close with a lightning round:
Fave movie, fave soft drink, fave photographer and what’s fun?

CMcL- Favourite movie is either Dancer in the Dark or Amelie. both really unique–
one the most hopelessly sad movie ever, the other adorable and uplifting.

Soft drink. I don’t drink pop very much but if I do it’s rootbeer. normally I drink milk.

Photographer – it changes daily. I really love the energy of emerging photographers.
My current favorites are Kitra Cahana, Gregory John Hern, who are both under 25
I think and Canadian. More established (and sadly not Canadian) are Simen Johan and
Hendrik Kerstens. oh and Craig Cowling…and..and..and…

Fun – geez. making a living by making pictures is pretty fun.