In focus Friday - Guatemalan Dreams

22 June 2018

SIG: Documentary

This week Eric Smith talks us through the background of this beautiful picture which he submitted for the February round of the Documentary group's bi-monthly competition (link).

Hi, Eric. What was your plan for the day?

I was in Sumpango, Guatemala with a small crew from a new company called Givewith (link) to document the great work of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. We were visiting with some of the indigenous families who would be receiving new stoves. While location scouting we met this woman and her child who would become the feature of our documentary. While the men of the village work in the fields, women and children shuck corn to prepare for tortillas. Our cinematographer alerted me to the sleeping baby on the woman’s back. She had been fussy for an hour and finally fell asleep. Being 6’4” I usually have to sit, kneel or lay on the ground to get good shots. In this instance, I stood on my tippy toes to get the overhead perspective. I loved the colours and the circles in the scene are so symbolic of what is happening, not only in this shot, but in the cookstove story.

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera?

I don’t have a big routine to be honest. I just make sure the batteries are charged and the lenses are clean, maybe have a coffee in the car. If I am interviewing someone, I’ll review the questions. I’m not super precious with my gear. It takes a pretty good beating. We are usually up and out early and I’m not an early bird, so I’m mostly waking up.

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?

I graduated from the Rhode Island School of design with a BFA in Graphic Design. As a professional photographer, the way I see is very formal: light, texture, color and of course, emotion. I can’t, as I’m sure many other members of the RPS can’t, shut it off. I view life as moments to be captured. I’m also a fairly intuitive and empathetic person, so if I am moved by a moment, I’m pretty sure others will be as well. These days, it is easy to over shoot, which I can be guilty of sometimes, but all of these factors and my gut make me press the shutter release. 

Where can we find more of your work?

I post a photo each day to my Instagram feed: @esmith_images (link) and there's a variety of images on my personal website (link)

what essential piece of advice would give your novice self?

I would tell the young Eric Smith to not change a thing. Learn all the disciplines of design, painting, drawing, follow the masters, and watch Mom work in the darkroom at the newspaper. Maybe pay a little more attention than I did. I was not ready to be a photographer until mid career. Now it all makes sense.

And finally, which camera has been your all time favourite and why?

I have been shooting with the Canon 5DsR since it was released in late 2015. My first shoot with it was from a doors off helicopter over Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The results of that outing were epic and I never looked back. I love the detail and I love making large prints from the imagery. It is starting to look like C-3PO from the junk pile, but it is still ticking, and I still great great results with it. When it finally breaks, I’m going to kill myself!

Now that is true love for your Camera.

If you would like your work to feature in a future edition, please email us (docweb@rps.org ).