Erik Lamont has been a photographer in Saugerties for over 30 years. He specializes in portrait and wedding photography, and can often be seen photographing area musicians.
How did you become interested in photography?
My mother gave me a Pentax SLR. I made the usual attempts at using it by following how-to books. One of my earliest memories is of walking around the Pike Place Market in Seattle and daring to shoot the people I saw. I remember the excitement of seeing the developed prints. I played around with it until 1977, living by then in New York City, and I modified my bathroom to double as a darkroom with the enlarger across the sink and trays on a board across the bathtub. I felt like an alchemist. I pursued other vocations but I kept working at my art when I could. In 1992 I built a fully equipped black-and-white lab and pursued photography full-time. My private work in those days was the pursuit of found scenes; what might be called street photography, but I don’t like the label.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
I prefer to improvise around the fundamentals and getting something that surprises the subject and me. My goal is an aspect that they haven’t seen before.
What is the most difficult aspect?
A portrait sitting can be stressful. Formal studio settings are not my thing. If a person shows up cold and stays that way, it’s tough.
How has technology changed what you do or how you do it?
Digital is great for color. I never did color at home because it was very difficult and expensive back in the day. I still love black-and-white and I keep a darkroom that gets too little use. Ultimately I haven’t changed how I approach a camera.
Discuss your photography of musicians.
I enjoy shooting live music and I apply the same eye to that as I did on the street. I try not to be obvious and look for something unusual. One of my favorites is one of Garth Hudson deep stage, in partial shadow, waiting to go on.
What kind of advice can you offer?
If I were starting out today, in terms of gear, I’d get an inexpensive digital with a viewfinder; an LCD screen can never substitute for the concentration that gives. Unfortunately viewfinders are rare in an entry-level camera today. The days when even the cheapest film cameras could take good photos are long gone. I compare digital to CDs versus vinyl. I have 5000 LPs so you know where I stand. Other than that, one must train the eye; seeing it there first is 90 percent of it.
Unless you’re prepared to deliver strong, technically correct versions of the client’s wishes, don’t go into commercial photography. There’s very little creativity there. You’ll be asked to deliver so-and-so’s (insert photographer of the moment) style and to keep it straight. I also don’t think an MFA [master of fine arts] helps either; some of the least creative types I know have one.
How’s the money?
I’m not getting rich but I make a living.