Interview with Eli Dreyfuss
INTERVIEWING A FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER
Interviewing Eli Dreyfuss – a few weeks back I hinted on social media there would be a big name coming to this site! Every person featured in the interviews is both special and important to me. But this interviewee has some fame and therefore you may have already come across.
Working with people across social media is really great and connecting with good people is the whole point of this blog. Eli is a great young man with a future only he can decide on. Wait till you read all about it below anyway and decide for yourself.
Having come across his work something like 18 months ago through an article. I contacted him to ask how his work had radically changed. He actually responded and watched his work grow since then. Eli is very down to earth and hadn’t even realised he had a blog article published about him.
Anyway, let’s start the ball rolling, sit back, relax and enter the world of Eli Dreyfuss.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up and what was life like?
“Llife has been like a rollercoaster. I’ve been to over 10 schools, and lived in 10 different houses around the world. My father is a physics teacher, and my mom is a drummer. Dad grew up in Paris and travelled a bunch as a kid. He wanted to pass that travel bug onto his kids, and the rest is history. From living on an equestrian boarding school in rural Connecticut packing up all of our stuff and moving to Guadalajara, Mexico for a year, in my family, travel is in our blood. I grew up in a handful of places including: Cincinnati, Kentucky, Connecticut, Miami, Israel, Mexico, Boca Raton. I always loved just picking up and going to a new place. It adds a sense of adventure and enables us to make friends all around the world. I especially enjoyed living abroad. Now for the last 6 years, we’ve settled on an 80-acre boarding school in Boca Raton, FL. I live there with my 5 siblings and 2 dogs.”
Interviewing Eli Dreyfuss – Insights
Tell us about the people who have influenced you in life
“The most influential people in my life can’t be narrowed down to just one person or category. I’m the kind of guy that takes a bit of inspiration from one person and some from the other. It really all starts with my family. My dad has instilled in me a love of travel and the world. To appreciate the beauty the world has to offer, and how to broaden my horizons and perspectives to be open to other cultures. My mom has taught me to see people with compassion and care. See people for their strengths and not their weaknesses and to give back to the community that gave so much to me. The combination of my mom and dad have really shaped my personal journey in life and provided me with the tools to be the best person I can be.
Then there’s my mentors and teachers. My mentors, on the other hand, had a different kind of influence. I always found them to be more driven than I was to succeed. It truly pushed me and continues to push me to greater heights. They’ve always been by my side during my greatest accomplishments and failures.
Lastly, there are my photography and videography inspirations. From the very first day, I took my first portrait, Steve McCurry was behind each one. He has greatly influenced the foundation for which I take portraits. The way he captures eyes, and the way he meticulously frames his subjects using the most basic of compositional rules. The simplicity of his work is something that I still strive to do today. To add to the never-ending list of inspiring photographers, Richard Avedon places the top on my list. When I saw his striking yet identifiable style, it made me go back and dig deeper into myself and find the real reason I shoot portraits. The most impactful statue of Richard Avedon was his ability to capture expression and emotion. The way you can look into his subjects eyes, and see something deeper. Every shoot I have ever done, his images and techniques are inscribed in the back of my mind. It’s allowed me to bring out the untold stories of my subjects’ souls.”
What is your earliest memory of photography/videography?
“My earliest memory of my photography/filmmaking journey began in the first week of film school. Before 9th grade, I’ve never been interested in photography or art. Fast forward to 9th grade and I sat in on my first film class and within the first week emptied my bank account and bought my first camera. The rest is history. My teacher for 4 years was there every step of the way. Giving feedback, busting my butt for everything I was doing wrong and I am forever grateful for that. I could say he single-handedly started my photography career.”
Interviewing Eli Dreyfuss – The future
What plans do you have in place for 2018?
“Each year comes with new obstacles and accomplishments. The important thing in photography or any art form is not to be complacent with where you are in your career. Your accomplishments serve as a success but do not deem you successful. You need to leverage them to make you grow and go one step further. My hopes for 2018 is that I can give back more to my community and spread more positivity and light during a dark time. I want to see my work changing people’s lives for the better and getting people’s stories told who never had the opportunity to do so.”
What do you think is the future of photography?
“I think smartphones are the future of photography.”
How did you get into photography?
“When I took my first picture, and the passion stuck, it was back when I was 14, a freshman in high school. A copy of ‘The Photo Issue’ by National Geographic arrived at my doorstep, and I was immediately hooked without even turning the first page. The eyes pierced through the page and made me think deeper into the person I was looking at. It was all the eyes. six years later, at 20, I find myself still taking pictures.
The instant I saw that cover of National Geographic, in the back of my mind, I yearned to find out how Steve McCurry could possibly capture so much soul in one portrait. From that moment on, I walked outside and saw the beauty this world has to offer, and started experimenting with any genre I could find. Landscapes, Portraits, Events.
However, after I took my first portrait of my sister on my back porch with a black mattress as my background. The realization hit me; I don’t need the best gear to capture captivating portraits. All I needed was myself, my soul, and desire to bring out a true expression of each person I photograph. As I continued to take portraits, I found myself never happy with “The Shot” and that just pushed me to try harder and research what I could do to make it happen, and when I accomplished the look I was going for, it gave me the push to accomplish the next look I dreamed to capture. That attitude has lasted until today and has never faded.
I soon realized my best shot is the last one I took, and that on each shoot I would have to out-do myself. Years later I am creating work I could have only dreamed of when I first got started. I guess I’m living up to the saying, if you want something bad enough, you will do anything in your power to achieve it.”
What was one of the most rewarding experiences?
“This a tough question. I’ve been so thankful in my short career to rack up some crazy accolades such as: winning an unprecedented 17 gold keys in the 2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards or a 2-year life-size display outside of Macy’s.
However, the one experience that sealed the deal for me and put everything into perspective was in March of 2016. At the beginning of 2016, I told myself I wanted to bring my work to the next level.
That’s when I started to submit my portraits to prestigious competitions. Scholastics stood out though. That year I ended up with 2 national gold medals, and 2 silver. I placed in the top 2% of 320,000 submissions. As a reward for winning the national medals, I flew out to NYC for which was going to be the craziest week of my life. The week started when I got off the plane and headed to the opening ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel. When I got to check in, they pulled me aside and said “Are you Eli Dreyfuss” I promptly answered, “Yes, that’s me”. They then with a smile on their face showed me that my photo was selected to be on the cover of the national magazine. The magazine that represents the top 100 pieces out of all 320,000. The magazine that is distributed to every library nationally. The one with 10,000 copies made. My photo was sitting on the cover of history. In shock, I stood there speechless. They then had something better in store. The director of communications at Scholastics came up to me and explains that they ran that photo as a full page spread in the NY times that previous week.
To think that one photo could go so far as to be the face of the entire organization was mind-blowing. The moment my photo and name were printed in the New York Times was the most fulfilling and accomplishing moments in my career. I will cherish it forever. It solidified everything I’ve worked for in the years prior and validated me as an artist.”
Do you have a favourite lens, camera or piece of equipment?
“Although I often don’t let gear get in the way of my shots, gear definitely makes the job easier. My favourite 3 pieces of gear are my 6ft Rotolaux Octabox by Elinchrom. The light is just a dream. The 2nd piece of gear I use the most is my set of Rokinon lenses. The 24 1.5 Cinema, the 85 1.4, and 50 1.4. The way the lens picks up colours and light doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever used. Those lenses are also ALL manual lenses. This makes me slow down and really think about the shot I’m getting. Lastly is the 135L from Canon. It’s simply the lord of portrait lenses. Sharp as a needle, and gives the subject a beautiful composure.”
What is one piece of advice you would pass to beginners?
“If I had one piece of advice to share with someone just getting into this field, I would tell them to be different and be you. There’s no one that can do it better than yourself. It is the one determining factor that will set your work apart from everyone else. Hone your own craft and don’t focus on anyone else’s.”
THE RANDOM QUESTIONS
When you were a child, what career/job/field did you want to go into?
“I wanted to become a baseball player.”
Name one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses
“My biggest strength is that I am sensitive and compassionate to others. My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist. It often gets in the way of my productivity.”
The desert island question, you get to take 1 music album with you, 1 book and 1 camera. What would they be and why?
“If I were stranded on an Island, I would bring my Spotify playlist because I hate the sound of silence. Music is the basis for all of my work. My book it would be ‘The Photo Issue” by National Geographic because it would remind me to stay humble with my beginnings and to see the beauty the world has to offer. The camera would be the Hasselblad and Zeiss lens. I would use those tools to capture my life on that island.”
What is your Christmas movie, Home Alone or Die hard?
When are you at your most creative?
“I’m most creative when I’m in a darker or lower stage in life and can’t work without music. Art is literally a blank slate. I always start by listening to music and clearing my head of all previous thoughts or influences. In turn, the work I create is raw and is a manifestation of thoughts influenced by the music I’m listening too.”
Tell me two things you learned in school
“I learned to take advantages of the resources given to me such as mentors and teachers. The second thing would be to stay persistent in what I set out to do.”
Will we ever meet an alien race and if so what would they look like?
“I think so. They would look beautiful and different. I would love to capture portraits of them and share their stories with the world.”
As you will have read from the information above, Eli is a great person. First and foremost he is considerate of his life and art. He is literally at the start of his career and has already shone so bright it is incredible. There is nothing stopping Eli achieving the fame of the greats of photography.
His family life has taught him the important aspects of life and without a doubt, shapes his persona. It is clear who is influences are and how they have helped him start in photography.
Eli’s interest in National Geographic is quite understandable, how can you not get drawn into the mesmerising photography in this publication? His experiences of living in different countries have taught him about people and culture. Which, is only going to help his career and life in general.
The random questions are always a great way to understand a little about the person. It is quite understandable that creativity can flow from listening to different types of music.
Thank you so much to Eli for being so open in his responses and the promptness of all replies. He really should be someone to watch in the future, I will watch in anticipation.
Please click on the links to go to relevant sites.
Facebook link – facebook.com/elidreyfussportraiture
Instagram link – @elidreyfussphoto
Website link – elidreyfuss.com
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