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Respect the Shooter Interview with Alex Roldan @ on_a_rol

Amanda Giordano


How did you get into photography/videography?

It probably goes all the way back to childhood. I remember my mom used to take a lot of home videos. We had one of those huge VHS camcorders and I would fight my little cousins and siblings for all the attention because it made me feel like a Star. Initially I wanted to be an actor. As I got older I began to shy away from the desire to be in the spotlight and instead became interested in the act of making films. My interest really took off when I got my first camera phone. I would shoot short video clips and make little comedy videos. It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I started taking photography seriously. I used my last semester to take up some art classes including painting, photography, and illustration because I felt it would improve my eye for filmmaking which was my actual major. I still enjoy filmmaking but photography has been my main focus lately.

What did you first use to take photos?

LG Flip phone I got freshman year of High School. Now I shoot with a Canon 6D most of the time.

Where did you go to school? Do you have any formal training/self taught?

I went to CSI for Filmmaking but I took some courses in photography and other fine art. I’d say when it comes to photography I’m mostly self-taught but I also ask a lot of questions whenever I can and have received plenty of guidance from family in the field. I also watch a lot of tutorials on YouTube. There’s so much information out there, it’s foolish not to seek it out. It can only help you grow as an artist.

Do you have any nicknames? How did you get that name?

I have a few. They’re usually a play on my name. But mostly people just call me Al or A.

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If you could take photos of any 3 people who would it be?

Michelle Obama

Spike Lee

Wes Anderson

If you could take photos of any 3 people that are no longer living who would they be?

Salvador Dali

Roberto Clemente

Harriet Tubman

If you could take photos in any 3 cities what would they be?

I’d say I really have no preference. There are things worth seeing and capturing in every corner of our world. All their stories should be told. I’d like to tell them all!

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What is your goal when you capture photos of someone?

My goal is always to tell a story and capture an authentic moment, which isn’t always easy. When I’m doing street photos I prefer my subject not to see me taking their picture. I don’t want to distract from their moment. The second people know their picture is being taken they stop being their authentic self. This is even more true when doing portrait work. So my goal when shooting portraits is to force my subject to drop their guard and forget about the camera. I do this by treating our time together like a hangout instead of a session. I engage, ask questions, and joke around rather than just posing them and snapping away. This allows them to relax and reveal their true self, which isn’t easy for anyone when a they have a camera in their face. We always want to control our narrative. My goal is to get passed who my subject wants me to see and reveal deeper more true emotions and energy.

What music do you listen to when you edit photos?

My shuffles tend to be all over the place. I would make a horrible DJ. I go from sad ballads to Hip-Hop to Rock, Jazz, you name it. But if I’m in a creative slump I like to listen to Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and The Killers. Their music speaks to me on a different level than most and gets me back in the zone.

What's your favorite app on your phone?

Adobe Lightroom, Instagram and Twitter

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What is your dream as a photographer?

To be commissioned to do portraits for a famous magazine or an event like the Oscars. Mark Seliger just absolutely crushed it for the Oscars a few weeks ago. I’d love to do something like that. For now I’ll just settle for getting 100 likes on an Instagram post haha!

What is some advice you would give to someone with a dream to be a photographer/videographer?

The best advice I’ve ever received is to “love thy subject”. Regardless of whether you’re shooting pictures or video, you have to fight the urge to try to capture everything happening, because you won’t, it’s impossible. Loving thy subject means being patient with what has your attention in that moment. Letting the narrative come to you and trusting your instincts.

Where can people find you? (social media, website, etc)

Instagram: @ on_a_rol