This week we are featuring award-winning director, cinematographer, editor, and photographer, Eric Bunch. Eric is a regular here at the store and we are always happy to see him when he walks through the door. He recently started his own YouTube series all about his journey with photography, so we thought we'd tag along for the ride. Below you'll find the first video in his series.
Tell us a little about how you got into photography.
I remember being fascinated by photography from a very early age. I liked looking at old cameras that seemed to be kicking around in the storage areas of my house. I remember looking at photographs of my relatives and wondering how they were made. National Geographic was a favorite next to Mad Magazine, and I fantasized about traveling the world with a camera in hand, making images of animals and people in faraway lands.
When I was about twelve I asked for a real camera for my birthday. What I got was a plastic box with a plastic lens that could not take a sharp picture. Nonetheless, receiving the first pack of photos that I had taken with my own camera hooked me. By the age of 14, I had saved enough paper route money to buy a Minolta X-700. I shot everything with that camera, and when I wasn’t shooting I was spending my hours in the school’s darkroom developing and printing my own photos.
I remember making a collage of photos and hanging it on the classroom wall, for an assignment. The next day I found a group of kids huddled around my project, smiling and talking very positively about it. I was so proud. For the first time, I think I felt what kind of impact my art could make on others. Not only was photography a pleasing endeavor for myself, but I saw how my work could make others smile and that really set me on my way.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue cinematography as a career?
When I was in my early twenties, with a growing family and more and more responsibility, I had my car broken into and all of my photography gear stolen. I was heartbroken and didn’t have the money to replace it. In a strange reaction, I decided to give up on photography.
I always loved movies, and I wondered what it would be like to shoot movies instead. At the time I was working at a frozen food factory making lasagna, but I knew of a movie studio nearby where they filmed television shows and the like. One morning, I couldn’t take the frozen food thing anymore and I walked off the job. I went home to my worried wife holding our baby, took a shower, and promised her that I would get a job that day working in the movies.
I went to that studio, drove around to the back where I found an open door and walked inside. I saw a couple of men who looked like the bosses, and I told them I wanted to work in movies and that I didn’t care what they made me do, I was willing to work hard and do whatever they asked of me. They hired me on the spot and I’ve been working in movies ever since.
I worked my way around various departments until eventually I was being hired to shoot and direct. It took many years, and my career is still evolving, but I have enjoyed what I do and I look forward to many more opportunities to come.
What, from your experience, has been the biggest takeaway as a director/cinematographer?
I have learned that working well with others is very important. For many years I valued my art more than my relationships. I know that along the way I have stepped on many toes and offended many who would otherwise have been my friends. There is a balance between defending my creative perspective and allowing others to enjoy theirs.
The older I get, the more I enjoy collaborating with others and sharing in the creative process. Some of my work is totally at my own discretion, and I enjoy that very much, but it can also be extremely fulfilling to create with another person's talents and skills involved and can even be a serendipitous endeavor at that.
What is your biggest advice to those starting out?
You decide who you are! That is the best bit of advice I can give. I know this is good advice because after a long time I finally figured this out for myself, and it made all the difference. If you want to be a documentary director, decide that you are a documentary director. If you want to be a landscape photographer, decide that you are a landscape photographer.
Do not allow anyone else, whether it’s family, friends, or fate, tell you who you are. You are the one who gets to decide, and once you decide it, you will become it. I let many years go by not sure of who I am because I didn’t decide who I was. I was more concerned with what I thought people might think I should be, than making the decision deep down, of who I wanted to be. Decide now, who you are, and you will become that person.
What does your gear bag look like when you're getting ready for a shoot?
I have a lot of gear bags. What I am shooting determines which bag or bags I use. For my documentary work, I have Sony FS7 M2s with Zeiss compact primes and Sony G Master zooms, as well as various drones, action cameras, and an FS5, with primarily Aputure Lights.
For photography, I shoot with a Nikon D800, a Nikon F, a Hasselblad 503cw, a Minolta X700, and a Fuji X100F. I have a variety of lenses for each of these camera systems except for the Fuji of course. I shoot mostly with primes but I’m not opposed to using zooms when the situation demands it. I use filters, cleaning kits, and spot meters, as well as incident meters.
For more about how to become a cinematographer, click here. If you want to learn more about Eric, click here.