Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Neil Kremer; A Vision Through Discovery

I believe that creation is born out of an observation, that with the right frame of mind, you can notice, reimagine and execute, making the ordinary extraordinary. When I was a kid exploring Rochester, NY, on my bike — whether rain, sleet, or snow, to today by car in sunny Los Angeles, I feel alive when I immerse myself in my surroundings, engaging with the world. I am who I am today because of what I have seen, heard, and done — and I am happily on a never-ending voyage to discovery.

For me, it all began in the hometown of Kodak, where photography was ever-present. From grade school to high school we learned about photography from a camera and film standpoint, including learning how to use the darkroom. Having taken a series of process-driven classes in high school from mechanical drawing to woodshop I found comfort from methodically working my way through projects, seeing visual proof of my efforts.

Sports presented an opportunity for me to create muscle memory, learn by doing, and take a hands-on approach to everything in my path. Wrestling, in particular, taught me grit, determination, and discipline — instilling in me the power of having a strong work ethic.

I worked hard at having fun too and friends played an important role in my life from the start. Finding my home life with my grandmother, mother, and sister claustrophobic, I instead chose to float around my Italian neighborhood. Gathering for “Sauce Sundays” at various friends’ houses, I learned what it means to be more than a guest — where mothers enjoyed seeing the food they prepared disappear; father figures modeled bluntness and passionate discussion. I like to think that my friends’ families raised me, giving me options of what to believe and how best to communicate.

I was the school prankster and neighborhood fun-maker talking my friends into skiing the streets while unobtrusively hanging from the car’s rear bumpers. Whether in response to my experiences at home, or the constant presence of Italian jokes, humor became my love language. But it was through my friends and their families, I observed the difference between self-deprecating humor, and questionable jokes, adopting the former as my go-to approach. I wasn’t afraid of sharing my point of view, often inserting subtle humor and presenting reality with a slant. By now, humor comes naturally, akin to whack-a-mole — the more observations I make, the more I see.

Through my Uncle, a collector of fine art photography, I learned about different artists and perspectives, punctuating what I learned about humor. There is more than one interpretation of what you see or hear. While other kids might view art appreciation as “eating your vegetables,” I was different. Photojournalists Margaret Bourke-White and Sebastiao Salgado opened my eyes. I studied imagery, admiring the lighting, teaching me the unlimited possibilities with strobes, entirely changing the photography game for me.

You’d think that was it, and I embarked on a fine art education and career. But no, I had a brief rendezvous with the straight and narrow, earning a degree in business, going on to work in sales for a sporting goods manufacturer. In what feels like forever, but was only 15 years, after having experienced travel, computers, and sitting behind a desk, I realized this type of captivity wasn’t for me. I returned to my roots, picked up a camera — read the manual multiple times — and started shooting.

It’s always been my aim to keep on shooting. After observing other people, I found that the people I respect most are those who perfected something. I find success because I put in the time, not because I got lucky. With time, I’ve worked to reimagine things that already are, to improve on what I know and see. Because I am fascinated by how things work, I approach photography as a problem to be solved — an experimentation — knowing there are limitless possibilities of getting to a solution.

While I pay credence to observation and reimagination, I always take the next step by adding rational thought to these abstract ideas. I ensure a seamless mix of examination, ideas, and planning when it comes to photography, art direction, and my work with color and retouching.Recognizing that life’s journey is dynamic, I insert myself into it. My motivation comes from the process of photography, delighted that there isn’t an end to the race, just more opportunities to explore and improve. In learning by living, the learning never ends.

As a realist, I expect change. There will always be an advancement in technology, critics, and the like — I plan to improve right along with it. But, if you ask me about the future, that suggests an end-point. While I set business goals each year, overall, I’d rather enjoy this journey we call life. Along the way, I wouldn’t mind shooting a project in Africa or a TIME magazine cover. Cory will be happy to know that I would love to produce and direct a feature film too. Most of all though, I want to continue working with Cory. We share a similar sense of humor and have no problem telling each other like it is, even if it leads to an argument. I’ll consider us to have won if we continue to improve as we go. And, because we always create work that has a point of view, I’d love to put something out there that changes people’s perspectives.

Follow Kremer/Johnson on Instagram for more story-telling scenes.