From art history to zoom lenses, we spoke to photographer Adam Borman about his work...
An interview with photoED Magazine
photoED: What is it about creating stories through photography that you love most?
I think photography offers the unique opportunity to create something authentic, documentary, curated, and manufactured, simultaneously. The possibilities in capturing a scene that's in front of you but then, through various techniques, being able to manipulate what was in front of the lens into a different story, are endless. That is really exciting for me.
photoED: Whose work has influenced yours?
I've been trying to spend more time looking at other forms of art as opposed to just photography for inspiration. Recently, I’ve become quite interested in painting and art history. There's a professor I’ve found on YouTube who uploads his lectures and I’ve been watching his art history class. I think it's fascinating to look at paintings and how artists work with composition and light to gain inspiration from it for my photography. Some of my favourite painters are René Magritte, Kazimir Malevich, and Joan Miró.
photoED: What makes a good photograph?
I'm a very methodical photographer in the sense that everything I shoot is quite planned out and produced as opposed to capturing images in a moment as a documentary photographer might. I much prefer the process of developing a scene in pre-production: determining what needs to go into that scene such as use of colour, set design, props, wardrobe, etc. I enjoy the process of bringing all those elements together and building a composition. For me, I know I have curated a good photograph when all those elements work well together on set.
photoED: How has working in photography influenced you?
Photography has been a great introduction and gateway into other forms of art and design for me. It’s provided me with a foundational skill set and knowledge base that has given me the opportunity to appreciate painting, graphic design, architecture, and more, in a deeper way. It’s difficult to ever fully understand something if you don’t have experience with it, and I’m thankful photography has introduced me to paths and topics I don’t think I would have otherwise discovered.
photoED: What has been your most personally impactful project to work on?
A recent personal project involved recreating one of my grandmother's recipes and capturing it in a way that challenged me creatively. Growing up I saw my grandmother nearly every Saturday morning and many of those mornings were spent in her kitchen baking. She was very well known in our family for the pies she made. My grandmother passed away in February 2020 and directly following that was the start of the pandemic. Finally with the pandemic in the rearview mirror in 2022, I began to process my emotions and conceive of the project I wanted to create in her memory. Looking through her old recipe books I decided to recreate her strawberry pie recipe. I spent some time looking through family albums and pictures taken of her in her kitchen.
As I mentioned, conceptualization and pre-production phases are very important to my work. Distilling this archival information, I decided to capture her strawberry pie recipe in a way that truly represented her. My grandmother’s house is something I find myself thinking about often. It’s interesting to reflect on places that are important to certain periods of one’s life but can no longer be visited. I wanted the set to be inspired by her home so I found some old wood panelling as a backdrop wall and a white vinyl countertop as a surface. Both are similar to what she had in her home. The model's wardrobe was inspired by the sweaters she would often wear. Finally, bringing all of these elements together resulted in a very meaningful image for me personally — something that encapsulates my strongest memories and physical associations of her.
photoED: What projects can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I'm working on a personal project inspired by some of my favourite painters and other artists. When I take on a new personal project, I always seem to try to be doing something I haven't done before. It’s important for me to challenge myself creatively and rework my vision. When working with clients, you don't necessarily get the opportunity to try new things. Crafting a personal creative vision is really done during alone time for me.
I tend to show my work only digitally, which is all right, but the intent for this project is to be displayed as a gallery exhibition. I’m excited about working on something that results in a more tactile experience for viewers.
photoED: What advice would you give to other photographers?
A bad habit of mine and something I'm forever working on is creating work that is truly just for myself. Shooting purely as a creative outlet is so important for a photographer, but it is very easy, at least for me, to get wrapped up in client work with little time and, most importantly, little energy and motivation to make something for myself. I think any photographer improves creatively by making work that is solely for themselves.
Fulfilling someone else's creative vision or production brief can become draining after a while. My advice to other photographers would be to create for yourself as often as you can so as not to lose the original spark and interest that got you excited about photography in the first place.
I created these images by shooting at 200mm, with the Tamron 70-200mm. Using this focal length not only compresses my scene but offers a distinct composition.
What camera and equipment do you use?
Can you tell us about your experience using a Tamron lens?
Any semi-decent camera on the market right now is at the point technically where if the person knows how to use it correctly, they can take a great image. I currently shoot with a Canon DSLR, and I am quite keen on my Broncolor lighting kit. I’m also intrigued by any opportunity to use a tool in a new way.
After shooting with a Tamron lens, I found it to be well built and optically quite strong. For 90 percent of my commercial work, I use zoom lenses and found the Tamron 70-200mm ideal because it worked really well across all focal lengths. Distortion was minimal and the sharpness is great. I have found with other brands, things can start to look not so good when fully zoomed out or fully zoomed in.
Shooting with a zoom lens is a very versatile option, and that’s what's important to me. The majority of what I shoot I don't need the sharpest and widest aperture prime. What I need is something that is flexible and can get me the shot I need with the least amount of resistance. I found the Tamron lens to be a really good fit for my creative explorations.
Adam Borman is an Edmonton-based commercial photographer, working with a wide variety of clients from across Canada. Creative perspectives and technical precision are his signature in his portrait, product, and architecture photography.
Adam’s advertising work is represented by Spark Photographers. Select clients include ATB Financial, Canadian Western Bank, Hermès, Real Canadian Superstore, Rogers, and WestJet.