Generator – Ep. 003 – Parker Pfister: Photographer, Educator, Author, Artist

In this episode, I speak with my artistic mentor, Parker Pfister: photographer, author, artist, master printer, and educator. Parker lives in a state of childlike wonder and exploration, creating imagery that is powerful, sometimes surreal, and always jawdropping. This was a really fun conversation with a surprise story from his travels across the country. To see more of his work, please visit

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Transcript of Generator Ep. 003 - "Exploring the Wonder of Alternative Process"

Matt Stagliano 0:01
Welcome to episode three of generator and in this episode I speak to one of my best friends on the planet. His name is Parker Pfister. Now, Parker is not only a great friend, but he’s my creative mentor as well. We met several years ago at the portrait masters conference. And instantly I knew I needed to learn more from this guy. His philosophy towards photography is different from a lot of the intensely serious instructors in the industry. At the moment, he encourages his students to stay in a place of childlike wonder not letting the camera get in the way but instead looking at the world through childlike eyes through eyes that question and want to understand the world around us. And that approach has nothing to do with lenses or gear or technique. I’ve been to several of Parker’s workshops and to say they’re different from everything else that’s out there is an understatement. While most workshops, have the instructor tell you the settings for a given scenario and how to accomplish all the technical components of photography for a nice image. Parker challenges you to answer most, if not all of the questions yourself by exploring and trying and failing. There’s no definition of a correct image. It’s what feels good to you. Shadows are okay. Lack of detail is Okay. Motion Blur is okay. Anything goes so long as you can explain the why behind what you did. Clearly, he helps work through some of your technical blocks, but the creation of all of the art is left to the individual. And I absolutely love that style of teaching. Aside from being an incredible instructor Parker has the unique gift for finding himself in interesting situations speaking to interesting people, he’s never without a fascinating story about someone he met somewhere in the world that leads me to believe he has a very special gift for connection that’s so rare these days. So in this conversation, we talked about everything from the creative process to traveling cross country to avoiding cops in rural gas stations. It’s always fun to talk to him. And I think you’re really going to enjoy what he has to say. So now on with the show.

It’s good to see you, my friend. I haven’t seen you face to face in a long time.

Parker Pfister 2:44
I know. It has been a minute. You’re where you’re in Asheville. Your home right now. Right. And I right. In this moment. I am in Asheville, North Carolina drinking tea.

Matt Stagliano 2:55
But you have been on the road. And I saw you were just out in the Badlands. And it kind of brought back all the memories of going out there with you a couple of years back. How was it? How was the trip? How was the trip? Not only like I know, the workshop was great, but how was the trip back and forth across the country?

Parker Pfister 3:10
Oh, it was amazing. It was well, I mean, half of it was amazing. I think because I live east of the Mississippi now that I’m not real. I grew up east of the Mississippi, I’ve seen it done it. And I just I just go as fast as I can to cross the Mississippi River like literally every speeding ticket I’ve gotten in the last how many years has been east of the Mississippi because I just want to get out Pango West and it’s the lack of people really and finding that that solid dude out there and it is jammed all the way to the Mississippi that is not to say there’s not cool stuff this side of the Mississippi because there is but I’m here and I go do that stuff here. Get on

Matt Stagliano 3:58
how do you best go across the country? Are you a south and north person? Or are you a like a north and then West person like how do you organize diagonal your ways zigzag?

Zigzag I try to east of the Mississippi I stay on the the main roads for the most part, the highways, the 80s, the 90s, the 40s, the 50s, the 30s all that and just haul ass. And then once I get out there I find back roads like I try not to hit the highways. And that’s you know, the rural life out there. That’s you get totally lost, both literally and figuratively. And it’s a it’s an amazing place. You know, it all started I used to teach quite a lot at WPI. And I’d fly to Las Vegas every year, sometimes twice a year to go out and teach another thing in LA and it’s like every time I flew across the country I’d be just hanging out the window when I’m hanging out the window. They let me I would and I would see all this amazing land and just be curious like what I’m Listen, this is like I’ve driven across country before, but like really dig into it. So, you know, curiosity got the best of me and I haven’t flown to the west coast in like 15 years, like I drive every time.

Every time, you’re like me, I’d rather drive anywhere than fly anywhere, it’s just, I’d rather pack a couple of extra days at the beginning of my trip, and at the end of my trip, and just drive sometimes clearly, it’s not possible. But it’s been one of the things that over the past decade or so, has allowed me to change my opinion about this country a whole lot. Just in in terms of what I see on the road, and the people that I talk to, and the stories that I get told, and then kind of the media impression, and isn’t some big weird conspiracy thing. But it’s just the stuff that we’re being fed is not the same stuff that’s being talked about at truckstops, and corner stores, and just in conversations with people. And it’s always struck me as you, you don’t get that experience unless you get on the road and drive around and talk to strangers. And that’s kind of like your forte. You can like everybody,

when I’m driving across in the big interstates, I think of them as like Facebook, Instagram, and the news. And then once I hit the back roads, that’s real world, that’s real life, what what is going on, but, you know, the mainstream is what everybody sees. Everybody sees those billboards, everybody sees what people’s done, everybody’s making the videos of the crash, and all the horror and the shit is just piling up in our worlds, it’s like getting off the road. And getting off of that, both literally and figuratively, is is healthy for us. So, you know, getting on the backroads and just stopping at a farm because there’s a guy out there for me, and you just want to say hi to him and meet him. Maybe you want to make his photograph. But it’s like it works every time. Every time. It’s like they’re just like, sure how you doing and then we get in a conversation. And sometimes I stay on their properties. And sometimes I’m taking in for goodness sakes, it’s crazy. So

I wanted to ask about that specific thing about your ability to just kind of approach people alright, I’m, I’m not built that way. I’m very much a Don’t worry, I’m no harm. I’m not going to bother you anything like that, right? It’s kind of this people pleaser thing, but I just don’t like to inconvenience or interrupt anybody. And you know, and that’s basically what I’ve seen you do with a big smile and your burly presence, and you kind of roll up on anybody. And I’m always curious as to once people get past the initial skepticism of What’s this guy doing? What’s his story? How do you find that conversation? And you know, when you tell them you’re a photographer, and you’re gonna take their portrait, like, what’s the expectations that you set with them? Or is it just to meet other humans? How do you approach it?

Well, I think expectations that word I don’t I don’t get along with for a while, because I try not to have many expectations in life. Like I like to just live life as it flows around like the feather in Forrest Gump. It’s like, I might land here, I might land there. And with the people, I don’t give them any expectation other than my frog, my conversation with them and and where it goes, I have no idea. Like, it’s always this beautiful. Just curiosity lead adventure in the conversation. I don’t know. Like, I usually stop when something piques my interest, like, what he’s doing, or what she’s doing, if she’s hanging the clothes out or plowing the field or fixing a flat tire or whatever. And, you know, it’s just it’s just curiosity. I don’t know where the conversation is gonna go. I don’t know if I’m even gonna make a portrait. It’s just another human. And I’ve been on the road and it’s like, let’s let’s get some some some human ality in life here.

Yeah. And that’s, that’s the thing that I found on the road as well. You just you get starved for that interaction. And it’s not even a starvation. It’s just like, you realize how much meaning there is in just day to day interaction. But I want to come back to the freedom of the road as it were right. So there’s a singer songwriter named Martin Sexton. He’s got the song off an album from the late 90s called black sheep. There’s a song on it called freedom of the road and he talks about how he you know, left home young and just found his home on the road singing in these dive bars and orchards in you know, coffee houses and all that sort of stuff. In that freedom, we had a conversation recently Not you and I, Nicole York and I about artistic freedom and the constraints that we’re we find ourselves in, right? Where we’re having to produce artwork for a client or we feel like we have to run our business a certain way. Or we have to please people that are paying us through Patreon. And we owe them certain content, right? So we might have artistic freedom in air quotes, but is it truly artistic freedom. And you’ve always been someone that I’ve looked at as someone that has well defined artistic freedom, you just create for the sake of creation, whether it’s music, or visuals or video or imagery, whatever it might be books, prints, right? You’ve got this artistic freedom. Do you feel like everybody can have that? Or is it just, you know, the narrative that you define? Do you feel like you’re constrained in any way? Do you feel like there’s a notion of artistic freedom, rather than expectations? Do you have you know, any problem with the word artistic freedom?

I don’t know. I’m not I’m not a troublemaker, man. I’m not word police. Yeah, but word police. Um, yeah, just don’t say capture. Just don’t say great capture. Oh, my God. Capture it higher.

No, no, no. Before we go on to artistic freedom. We’re gonna we’re gonna we’re gonna dig in here. Just a little Oh, God.

Here we go. What did I so is it?

Is it captured? Is it make an image? Is it take a picture? Is it a snap? Is it a pic? I mean, what is it about capture?

What are you saying? In my personal opinion? What is? Yeah, okay, so I’m okay with snap. I’m okay with snaps. Like snaps is kind of fun. It’s kind of like some of the stuff I take are snaps they really are. Especially when I have my little Rico which you know, and those are a lot of those are snaps. It’s just like really quick out the window bang done. When I create with like, my big camera, it’s not a capture. Like, I don’t know why I have such a pain with that word. And with any camera. It’s not a capture. It’s it’s a it’s a make, it’s not a take because that seems very not nice to take things. So I make or create. I can grab my allowed to grab. I’m allowed to snap. To snap, grab. Yeah, create, snap, grab create. That’s my new tagline copyright 2022 Park Street district.

I’m going to put that on my website faster than you can so so sorry for the tangent. Let’s get back to the artistic freedom thing. Do you think there is such a notion as artistic freedom? Or is it just what you define for yourself?

Parker Pfister 12:59
Um, oh, gosh, it’s just how I live my life I think I think artistic freedom and it doesn’t stop at my artwork. It’s kind of the way I live, you know, I just had this idea of selling my daily driving vehicle to get me from point A to point B and buying a Ford Transit van. High atop and converting it into a mobile studio, a mobile home that I can travel around every anywhere I can get it. And that’s kind of home base for a while and I can be on the road for an extended period, I can be down the road for an extended period. Like if I want to get into a community here I’ll just I want to want to feel like what is like with them. So you know, it’s living that kind of artistic lifestyle and even with the cooking over here in the kitchen. It’s I’m the same way it’s like my dad always threw these concoctions together like I’ve always threatened making a restaurant called by dad’s for I don’t know what it would be called. But I would Pj is probably because my dad was PJ and I’m a PJ and from here on out I had brother everyone just call me PJ so thank you. I cook the same way he did. He threw things together and created these bizarre dishes. And they were deleted. They were amazing. They were new, they were different. They were they had everything going, you know, so I still cook that way. Like I don’t follow recipes at all. But I go with my curiosity I’ll tell you some was like, I wonder what this tastes like. And I throw it in there. It’s literally all the way through. It’s the same way with the photography and everything so like having creative freedom is just living my life. Like I don’t and not to sound all like Oh, I got it all together because I don’t that creative. Freedom has crippled me in the business world and everything like I don’t know diddly squat about running a business or anything. And that’s one of the things this year that I’m really really buckling down on. And I have like, huge lists going on over here, meeting with SEO people and business coaches, and this is just in the last few weeks. So like lots of stuff going on. So, you know, the creative freedom can get me in trouble sometimes.

Matt Stagliano 15:26
Is that are you meeting with all these folks? Because time I learned this, or is it outsourcing stuff? Is it just trying to refine your business and get better and pull it all together? Because I mean, you can say socket business, but you’ve been you sell your art for really long. So, you know, is this movement towards the coaches and SEO gurus and whatnot, trying to elevate yet again? Or is it just to organize your house and just get your ducks all aligned,

Parker Pfister 15:58
a little bit of both, it’s, it’s kind of ducks aligned a bit. But more it’s to elevate and grow. The business, especially while I’m here, and one of the things I’m really focused on is portraits at the moment, and, and I say portraits at the moment, and it gives me a little tinge that at the moment thing, because I tend to bounce around quite a lot. And I never go all in on anything that just has never been my style. But I go a lot in on several things. And, and portraits being one of them for so long. It’s so funny, I just made this post today about how I just photographed two clients. In in this week, last week, that or last last week, I photographed two clients, so I’ll get it straight in a minute. And neither one of them knew I made portraits and they live here in my town. And they’ve known me for like when I’m said 20 years, and like been a fan of my work. But she saw me as a wedding photographer, and it’s like, I didn’t want to bother you or, you know, belittle you to shoot to photograph by kids. So it’s like, Whoa, really. So I just had to make a post today introducing myself like, Yes, I love making portraits. And I think I’ve gone off on a tangent. I don’t know, we’re

Matt Stagliano 17:27
no, we’re talking about business and kind of refining everything. And you know, again, it states the narrative that you tell people, right, they’re not going to know that you shoot portraits of kids, unless you tell them you shoot portraits of kids, right? Because every Yeah, one of my favorites,

Parker Pfister 17:43
specific about what type of portraits you want to make of people. Right? And I think that’s where I get hung up where a lot of people they don’t understand that, you know, when I post a portrait, it’s actually a paying portrait to people see is like, Oh, that’s a really cool fashion and fine art. It’s like, No, those are my portraits this you can do, you know, to could have this.

Matt Stagliano 18:08
You do can have this after 40 years in career and expertise and every camera format and brand films, more than no YouTube, it’s just it’s a simple 47 step process.

Parker Pfister 18:21
Oh, no, no, no, I met the client, not not YouTube as a photographer. But you too, as a photographer could have this. Absolutely. Why not? yourself. But but,

Matt Stagliano 18:35
you know, the the interesting thing is, when I see your portraits, right, they are so different than contemporary portraiture. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just you’ve defined such a style, whether that’s medium format, or the eight by 10s, or, you know, whatever it might be, whatever system you’re using, you create such distinctly different looking portraits that are eye catching. And, you know, in the day and age of smartphones and simple mirrorless cameras and even the point and shoots, it’s so easy to make beautiful images and then process stops for you. It’s always seemed like the process begins way out here somewhere. Yep. And by the time you get to using the camera and taking the portrait, you’ve already got it pretty well defined up here. And the camera just becomes the tool rather than using the camera as something that I hope I get a good portrait with the portraits already captured. Wink wink portraits are already made. You’re just creating a physical representation of it. Right? Is it am I getting that right in terms of the way your brain works?

Parker Pfister 19:46
100% Wow, get out of there. Why you can? Yeah, that’s exactly and that’s what I teach. You know, it’s the same thing. It’s like really digging into figuring out who you are. And I think it starts with who we are. We have to know who we are. And I’m one curious dude, if I was a cat, I’d be dead long time ago because I’m, I’m curious. I like I want to know what’s going to happen when I do this. What’s around the corner? What’s over the hill? Will I survive? Which is a lot of the question. And it’s just like, I got to know these things. So creating with the camera, it’s like, well, I’m gonna try something different. And it’s a it’s a, it’s a what is the word I’m looking, I almost said burden. I almost said, challenge. What it is, it’s, it’s really hard to do that up myself on every shoot. I don’t like to repeat myself. I like to do the same thing again. And again. Even when I photograph weddings, on the weekends, every weekend, I tried to do something different every wedding. And it’s, it’s, it takes a lot. But you learn a lot. You learn a lot about people, you learn a lot about yourself. And once I started learning about myself, it’s like, oh, this is me. And every photograph I make. This is my curio, it’s me that I’m taking a it’s me that I’m making a portrait of Wow. In conversation that tape just came out. I’m sorry world that need to take from you. But it’s me that I’m making a portrait of it’s like a mirror. And even to the fact that when I’m photographing somebody, they just mirror what I do. Like even if they don’t like I’m not talking like on a on a on a fashion shoot or anything. portraits with kids, I was just shot this four year old yesterday, day before yesterday. And Isla and Isla new, like I do this with people. And the four year old knew exactly what it meant. Like, I know that’s a human instinctual language. And it’s just like, and she’s like, cuz she was just a grinning, but she had just the most amazing smile, but it won’t see the smile all the time, because that’s not me. I am I’m I can be a little bit melancholy. And that’s what I like to pull out of my images, I want a little bit of them, and a little bit of me. And, and I think put that that’s putting your signature, then you don’t have to sign print.

Matt Stagliano 22:23
But I mean, and I love all of that, because one of the things that I’ve known about you and it was from the first time I met you playing pool, drinking bourbon was your your ability to connect very quickly, right and make people feel welcome, whether it’s empathy, whether it’s a genuine interest in what their story is, whether it’s like you say, living in the state of wonder, and curiosity. But you’ve got this very easy way of connecting with people. And it’s, it’s such, it’s such a gift that a lot of people don’t have, and I know that that breaks down a lot of things for you. But it’s, it’s that ability to connect, which allows you to combine those elements of yourself with them in a genuine way that’s authentic to both. And I think, you know, if you’re if you’ve got a subject in front of you, that you’re forcing your vision on them not allow allowing them to collaborate, or you’re just giving them what they think they want, then there’s no real connection there in the portrait, you’ve been able to transcend a lot of that. And do you think it’s just from that connection and talking to people and making them feel comfortable in front of your portrait that everything comes together so well? Or is there something else to it?

Parker Pfister 23:44
No, I think it is I think it is all just this human connection and knowing myself and and knowing that I’ll never force anything like you mentioned the word force and I felt a little, like, Joint Force to force people. Like I guess sometimes I do. You know, it’s not really a force but it’s a sell. It’s a sell an idea to put I’m real careful with my words if you haven’t noticed, because I believe what we say to ourselves is the greatest influence of everything, like our whole existence is what we say to ourselves and even subliminally like when we just say it in our mind and not out loud which doesn’t happen very often meet it’s usually out loud. And because I like to talk to myself and my friends that aren’t here. I like I totally believe

I’ve lost my place I’ve lost my place.

Matt Stagliano 24:52
I think you know the the the ability for you to connect with people the way that you do, right. allows this Collaboration, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, of what they’re trying to portray what you’re trying to bring to the table to pull out of them, right, and they’re pulling certain things out of you, and suddenly you’re in this flow, right, and I’ve seen you do this. And it’s amazing what happens, I could walk up to that same person, try to have that same connection, go through all the same things, and never be able to capture the soul of the person the way that I’ve seen you do it. And I don’t say that to blow smoke up your ass. I do that because it’s a special quality, it’s a way of body language, and voice in wording and being conscious of the other person, giving them space to be themselves. And it’s just, it’s a really, I don’t like to use the word talent for something like that, because I think it’s innate. But it’s a skill as well, right? You’re, you’re, you’re selling you, and you’re selling trust in you as a stock. And they’re either buying that or they’re not, right.

Parker Pfister 26:06
And more often than not, they buy it. Like I very, very seldom get shut down. Like it’s the craziest thing, even the, the, the roughest looking person, like I don’t believe in judging a book by the cover. And I’ll talk to it like my son is the same way he’ll talk to a tree he has no, like, it’s whatever. And I’m the same way. It’s just like, I don’t get hung up on what somebody could be. I want to know what they are. Right? And, and getting past that knee jerk thing that is, and that’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life of having this knee jerk reaction to stuff and then just going off on it. And it’s like, wait, what? And so that’s been a 20 year practice for me is just like to stop the knee jerk. And like, Wait, let’s just chill a second. And what is true here? What’s north? Where’s north? Where am I? And how can I benefit from this? And how can I get my help to this person? And through this conversation, sometimes, you know, I make portraits of strangers, and we become really great friends like to this day. And it’s like, I don’t know him from anybody. I met a guy on the road trip on the way back from the Badlands. And he just happened to have a sprinter van too. And he thought I was one of his old super long ago in high school friends. And he followed me for like 100 miles. And I’m just like, Who is this freak? What is going on? And then I finally pulled off to get gas and coffee. And he followed me in and he goes, Hey, man, I don’t want to. I just thought, Man, I just had to be 100% sure that you weren’t forget his name now, weren’t this guy Jeremy maybe I don’t know. And you’re not clearly but can I buy your coffee? And I’m like, Sure. And so we had a conversation. Turns out, he’s a fly fishing guide in Montana. And He’s taken his dog on the last road trip that his dog will probably go on. So I was just like, wow. And we we shared this, this. This, I don’t know, we shared an hour and a half together in this parking lot. Talking about cool fly fishing stuff and petting his dog Ooh, see, I forget his name, or her name, Lucia and petting the dog and hanging out. And I was like, hey, I want to make a portrait of you guys. So I just made my little portrait session on the side of Homer got him around there and made a portrait and that his girlfriend just saw it. And she reached out to me the other day. And she’s like, I want to get in that print for his birthday. It’s coming up. And it turns out, his ex wife lives, like 30 minutes down the road for me. And it’s just like this wild thing. So now we’re like in communication. I gave him one of my books out of the back of Homer and signed it for him. And he just like, he loves poetry. And he’s writing a book at the same time. And he’s like, Man, this is what I needed to really propel me to finish my book. So through my curiosity of being like, Okay, well through his curiosity, right? I’m thinking I’m somebody else. And then we pull in, and then my curiosity of like, Oh, what’s this guy about? We’re here, we might as well talk it up a little bit. We’ve created this help for one another. And it is just that it’s a beautiful thing, but it happens weekly, to me, at least.

Matt Stagliano 29:23
Well, I think one of the things that is core to that. And it’s one of the things that you’ve slapped me around, no matter where in the world we are together, you always slap me with this in some way, shape or form. Like slow down, just slow down, right? We’re all going so fast forward. We’re run by calendars, we’re run by our phones were always off to something else. We forget to enjoy the passage of time and we forget to just be in the moment and slow down and look at the world around you. What light Do you have what subject do you You have, what are the shadows doing? Where are you in location, change your location, right? Everything is just slow down. And you’ve been able to take that philosophy and apply it to life, slow down, look around, see that interesting guy, go talk to him, you know, paranoid me is like he’s gonna stab me in the throat, you’re like, it’ll make for a good story, you know. And there’s this aspect of just slowing down and observing that is. It’s hard to find in most people these days, right, because there’s always something to do. There’s always someplace to be or someone to be. So you’ve kind of mastered this art, I saw it. I remember seeing it in I think it was Iceland, in Viq, after getting off the black sand beach, and we were going to a cafe, up on the hill there, that little glass Cafe Visitor Center. And there was a big burly dude that came out. And we’re all just in a conversation. And then suddenly, Parker was gone. And we’re looking around, we have no idea we swept out to see maybe No, no idea. And you’re over talking to this enormous guy making portraits on the side of a building. And it was really quick and fast. But I saw your ability to connect you were always observing the world around you. And it’s just such a fascinating approach to life. Because it’s foreign to someone like me, I’m like, how fast can I get from A to B, I’ve got time, I’ve got things to do. And so because you’re always hitting me with that, it does change your approach. It’s not just shooting, it changes your approach to every day, you do slow down, and you do observe more, and you’ve come to a much less frantic feeling of every day. And it’s very peaceful. So thanks for at least showing people how it’s done.

Parker Pfister 31:50
Well, I mean, you know, something, you say, something you just said is like, you know, I have things to do. And it’s like, the only thing you have to do is live if you choose to everything else is your choice. And, and that’s the slowing down and getting off the main highway. And it’s the same, same thing, you know, it’s just like, just, you don’t have to do anything. It’s just what we choose to do. And it’s like, I choose to be curious. And I hope I’m not seen as an asshole. And I leave a conversation mid conversation to go talk to somebody else for a second.

Matt Stagliano 32:30
didn’t last too long. A couple hours. Good, good.

Parker Pfister 32:33
But I mean, that’s, that’s who I am. And most of my close friends know who I am. Like, we’ll be in mid conversation. And I’m often sometimes gone, like, I’ll just, and I’ll text them back later. It’s like, Hey, I just talked to this guy, and he’s doing this thing in his backyard. I’m taking off. I’ll see you in a minute. Like, I’m curious. And I always have my camera with me. So I’m always ready. And and a lot of the times, I can say a lot of the times I don’t make a photograph. It’s just the story. You know, and my grandpa, Homer, Paul, he told me before he passed away, it’s like the person with the most stories wins. And I believe that I’ve been living that for, gosh, 20 years now or more. And I signed up for a story and then me and my friend Joe photo, like, smart has the plan. Stupid has the story. So that propels it even further. It’s just like, well, what can I do that’s most people would think would be stupid, which is to go. Well, I was I was in Mexico and the barrio. I saw this guy had this little chair in the middle of a roll up door kind of place that was the size of a bathroom in the US. Not even, but I had a roll up doors to the whole length of it was was on the street, a dirt Street. And he had a mirror and this chair. He had two chairs, and a mirror and a little table with some stuff on it. And he was he was a barber. And I’m like, You know what? This is the last time I got my hair cut by other than me, right? And this was in 2004. I was photographing a wedding in Mexico, and took my camera into the barrio and photographed people and met people. And I saw this guy and I was like, Hey, do you can you do a straight razor shave? I’ve never had one. And he’s like, Yeah, and this guy’s like, covered in tattoos. Like he’s hard, hard looking. And I’m just like, Oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m gonna just Hey, will you please put a very sharp object to my neck and head that could easily just slit my throat and you know, take We have a $10,000 camera kit. Could you do that for me, please, and I’ll pay you. And he was the nicest guy and he sat there and he starts doing it. And then his wife comes in, sits down next to me in the other little chair. And these are barber chairs. By the way, these are like, these are like, lawn chairs, right? And like the plastic hard chair, you know? Yeah. And his wife comes down sits next to me, not two feet, three feet away. And, like, starts breastfeeding and the baby and starts talking to everybody. And I’m just like, where am I right now? Like, this is amazing. Like, it’s just the most amazing conversation. Turns out he was deported 10 years prior, he had been to the US and he actually, he’s glad he got deported. He didn’t like it up there because of the people and like, oh my god, here’s a conversation. So that’s what it turned into. And it was just, it was amazing. All because I was like, Okay, this could be a story. Here we go. That can be my last story. I don’t know.

Matt Stagliano 36:02
Do you have the strangest story from the road? Do you get asked that a lot? What’s the strangest story for no road?

Parker Pfister 36:10
I don’t have the strangest story from so what’s the

Matt Stagliano 36:13
what’s the apex The epitome the summit of stupidity? For a great story.

Parker Pfister 36:19
Oh my gosh, I had to think about it. I’ve done so many dumb things

Matt Stagliano 36:28
you need me to do you need me to quantify it to a certain time period?

Parker Pfister 36:33
No, no, I kind of have one. So I was meeting a friend in Albuquerque, New Mexico picking you up from the airport. And he’s like, Hey, man, I can’t fly with weed. You need to bring it? And I’m like, sure. All right, I’ll bring it at this time I quit smoking for a while. I mean, I never smoked. I’ve never done it. Ever. I didn’t inhale. Anyway, so I found found some and I bought some for this two week adventure on the road that we were going to have. And everything was fine and completely forgotten about the weed in the back of the car. And are we allowed to talk about this on here? I mean, he was state actually well, no, I don’t think New Mexico is nevermind. It wasn’t in New Mexico is in Colorado. Anyway. We I driving down the road, everything is fine till I got to the Texas, New Mexico line, where I picked up this black car with tinted windows behind me. This is like 10 o’clock at night. And there’s a stretch from Texas to Albuquerque that’s very long, very driven that I know exactly where you’re going 75 miles, just straight. Yeah. And so I’m cruising along. And, you know, I saw him sitting in the median. Right? And he got right on and just follow me. Follow me follow me for half an hour or more. So about 15 minutes into this following. I’m just like, what’s his deal, man? What’s What’s the why is he following me? And then I remembered I had the wheat in the back and I’m like, Oh, he must like, you know, like, I went total paranoid. And I’m just like, oh my god, oh my God. And so I’m cruising along, like half an hour’s gone. But like, My palms are sweating right now. I was half hour into the trip. Nobody’s on the highway on that stretch. He comes around the side of me. It’s a four lane highway comes around the side of me. And I’m just cruising along like nine go look over, not even over. But he just hangs there way too long, right? And I’m just like, man, and I’m just I just quick, like, look over, like, what are you doing? Like being we’ve been up here. And I look and he’s got like, his laptop flipped up. So it’s just his face. And he’s got his window down. And I’m just like, Oh, my God, like, and he’s just staring at me. And I’m just like, What is this guy’s deal? And I’m cruising along. And I’m like, messing with the radio, trying to turn up something really loud to get my mind off of what is happening. Right, right. And so he like, finally backs off and he’s there for a solid five minutes, five minutes just staring at me. Gets back behind me. He traveled another half an hour. So this is well over an hour of him just totally messing with me. And last screw up, right? And I’m just like, straight. I’m freaked out. And all of a sudden the written blues Come on. I’m like shit, and I start to pull over. He goes into the media and on the other side of that takes off. And I’m just like, oh my god, what the hell no way. But then I go on down the road and there’s another cop set along the road. And I’m like, Oh my God, he’s gonna follow me. He’s gonna follow me. Sure enough. He gets out behind me but not like close like this guy was and I’m cruising along and I’m coming into Albuquerque. Ricki and I’m just freaking out, right? And there’s this little town before Albuquerque that I planned on? Well, but I didn’t plan on saying and but this guy was behind me and I’m just like, all right, I gotta get off the highway, I’m gonna get a hotel, like, I’m not gonna sleep my car. I’m getting a motel. So I get off, I get this motel. And I’m just like, okay, everything’s cool. And I’m just like, You know what, I gotta get rid of the weed. Like, I can’t go like I’ve only got 30 miles to go, I gotta get rid of the weed, right? So I’m like, Well, I don’t want to, well, I’ll just go out my car, and I’m gonna grab it. I’m gonna put it in the dumpster. Like I’m done. I can’t do it. Sorry, Joe. Sorry, Joe. Shit. Sorry, Joe. It was for you. So I go out and I opened my trunk. And I’m digging through the box where it was and I just grabbed the bag of weed when I hear gravel behind me. And I stopped and I just kind of turn around. It’s a sheriff with a canine dog hanging out the window. Like just like his head out the window. And I’m just like, huh, but he got turned red. And, and he’s just pulling in, because he’s the diner next to it, right? But I’m just like, Oh, my God, and I put it back in there. And I shut the lid. And I’m just like, what’s gonna go and he pulls it next to me. And I just said, Hey, are you doing like, get in and I’m like, I’m out of there. Then I stopped the gas station. I pull into the gas station. I need a gas. So I I’m like, I’m gonna fill up. I’m gonna grab it. And I’m gonna throw it in the gas station, can I put the gas that I’m putting the gas in. And as I’m walking around to put the weed in the trash can in my hand, my toe catches the hose as I’m stepping over it. And I hit like a sack of hammers. I mean, oh, it hurt. Hurt like bloody my elbow, son of a bitch at hurt so bad. And the only thing I could see after just a second are these really shiny shoes standing in front of me, right in front of me. And I’ve got a bag of weed in my hand. And I I’m like, Oh, and this guy says You okay, buddy? And I’m just like, Oh, my God, I’m done. That hurts so bad. And I look up. It’s a state trooper filling up with gas. And I’m just like, Oh, what is going on with this trip? So by the way, they had just legalized weed in Colorado. This this is whatever year that was they had just legalized. And so I just like quickly roll my sofa over and got up with a bag of weed like under here. And he’s like, you need a hand up. And I’m like, no, no,

I’m good. I’m good.

And so I got back in the car filled up and everything and he’s like, you’re sure you’re okay. And I’m totally fine. Totally fine. Get back in and like fucking I guess I’m not pulling the weed away. Because I’m only like, five minutes from the airport. At this point. I picked Joe up I tell him the story. He’s like, No way this is happening. So then we get to Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes, wrapping it up really quick. And then we get to this little town. And we’re like finally we could smoke weed legally. So we wrote a big joint we’re walking down the street in Alma Rosa, I think is the name of the town at the Great Sand Dunes and in Colorado. And there’s a cop sitting there across from this little little store and we’re just smoking a joint in front of them waving like legal now turns out it legalized in Congress, but it didn’t are in the state but it wasn’t legal yet. Like you had to wait till the date. We had no idea they didn’t stop us or do anything but that’s I don’t even know what that classifies a dumb story, but it was I was shitting bricks.

Matt Stagliano 43:57
That is you know, it’s it’s one of those things where power manifestation Right? Like, I know I’m doing something bad. I’m I know I’m gonna see a cop. No, I’m gonna see a cop and every 10 minutes you see a cop right? Yeah. So power men have

Parker Pfister 44:14
cameras on all the lights like the interstate cameras. They were all tracking the man all tracking me.

Matt Stagliano 44:20
Were you like Ray Liotta at the end of Goodfellas. And you’re looking up and there’s a there’s a helicopter above you following you everywhere you go. Yep. Yep. So that kind of mind you like weird things that happen on the road. You’ve also got this not only this, this cosmic connection to Bliss, clearly, but birds, right. Birds are like a thing. Right? So as as I’ve witnessed on several occasions, and I don’t know if many people know about this or you talk about this at all, but it seems to be you have this supernatural connection to things that fly. Yep. And they’re next to you. they land on you. They’re all about you. What what’s, what’s this all about? What’s

Parker Pfister 45:06
What’s that? Yeah. I honestly, I am still trying to figure out what is with that. Anybody that knows me even semi well will tell you a story about how a bird interacted with me, or in my photograph, and especially, I will it to happen. Like, I’ll set up a frame and be like, Okay, I just need a bird. I don’t have to wait very long. And they show up, even if there’s nothing like the sky is clear. There they are. They just, they just show up. And I don’t know whether I’m just aware of them. It’s like, you know, when you buy the new Mustang, and you’re like, nobody’s got this color. And then you see it. Maybe it’s that I don’t know. But I, like had this. This photograph I just made in the last workshop. In the Badlands, where there was this big spider sticking up and just the spider into a sky of just white. It was just white, overcast, overcast. And it just when I the way I expose it in my Rico, it was almost like this big, jagged tear in the sky. And I just loved it. It was amazing. Well, at that point, I’m not. I wasn’t like Now where’s the bird? Right? But the universe or the bird averse? Said, Hey, you know what make that even better for you? How about this. And so now there’s this Blackbird flying out of this, this big rip in the universe, right? Or the frame at least. And here’s this Blackbird just showing right out of it. Like it just flew out of the darkness into the white in sight. And just saying that like flying out of the darkness into the light is how i i feel photographs. It’s how I relate to them. It’s not a visual thing. It’s a there’s a story behind the visual thing that I can put on it. And if I can put on anybody can put on it and throne story. And that’s what makes this such a freaking great artistic

Matt Stagliano 47:09
medium. No, and I agree. And again, you mentioned a second ago that you did it all with your with your Rico, I think I have mine, right here. It’s always next to me little Ricoh gr two, right? And I got this because of your salesmanship, basically. And no, we are not sponsored by Rico in any way shape, or form the Hello Rico. But you should be. And you’re welcome for you know, being your agent on that. So the interesting thing is something like this produces images that are comparable to just about any other camera out there. And I think the thing that fascinates me about it is we get so caught up in the gear and the lens choice and all the things that people poopoo on little point and shoots. But what you were just talking about is the moments that happen where you don’t necessarily have all your gear, and you just have to use what you got. And you know, having something that is a fully capable camera in a pocket size doesn’t matter. It’s about you being able to express whatever that moment means to you, right. And I think people get really wrapped around the axle. And I think would be insanely surprised if they knew about your work some of the things that I’ve seen you do and you’re taking photos of photos of things that you’ve taken photos of you know and you’re doing like multiple levels of processing and all on very simple gear rather than on you know the latest and greatest digital camera. The tool is the tool right and the art is kind of created up here. But talk about your love for little cameras like the Ricoh I mean in as it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. What’s the latest Canon or Nikon or Fuji? Or you know what I mean? So why why something like this for you?

Parker Pfister 49:19
Um Oh my gosh, there’s a plethora of answers here. One, it fits in my pocket. Literally my front pocket is smaller than my iPhone. And I can literally have it with me anywhere. When I drive. I take it out of my pocket, it goes on my steering column. And it startup time is like that. I can hit on and click I’ve already got it set to snap focus, which is this cool thing that it can do that no other camera in the world can do. So I guess it is about gear and a little bit. But it’s not about the latest and greatest and like this is an old camera, it’s not a new camera, they make newer versions of it, which I don’t care for I prefer the older one. It it can just it performs it has a little pop up flash, it’s got everything I need, it can. It’s gotta leave shutter. Somehow they crammed an AP there. There it is. Somehow they crammed an APS C sensor in this thing that I have no idea how they do. It’s the smallest camera with an APS C sensor has a black and white I shoot JPEGs mostly on their black and white and color positive film. I’ll switch back and forth. It has my little lanyard that I wrap around my my wrist like when I go shoot my portrait sessions. I’ll have that around my wrist and my GFX around my neck. And even on my GFX I’m not using the Fuji lenses. I’ve got an old Zeiss 85, one for 35, one for 20 to 28 f2. Like these are the lenses are all manual focus. So that slows me down. And those shots are radically different from the images that I make in the Ricoh the Ricoh are about like, really, in the moment, like really in the moment shot really in the face. It’s a fixed lens 28 F two, eight, which you can’t make portraits for the 28 millimeter lens. And I That’s the old old saying, and I totally disagree with that. It takes a minute to learn it. But once you learn it, it has a very distinctive look. And you understand its its power. And like I even gave the GFX up for a while on on portraits. And now it’s found it’s home with a little bit longer lens. So the 85 on there actually works out to about a 50, a 60 millimeter somewhere in there in SLR, but it’s very, very shallow and it’s very artful type lens. And I’m backed off from the subject a little bit with this, the Ricoh I’m very close to them. So I can carry on a conversation and be really quiet and whisper and I can like pull the strings that I need to pull to get the conversation going to, to engage myself to them and them to me. And it’s this exchange that goes back. And there’s nothing like I never I don’t look at the camera, there’s no viewfinder, right. So it’s just like shooting my eight by 10. Again, where I’m standing off to the side of it having a conversation, I wait for that one click Well, now I’ve got this. And I know it’s a 28 millimeter lens, I know my frame and I can just sit and have a conversation with them while I’m clicking. And everyone’s probably like Oh, and one for the camera. And they’re like what click, and then I just like I interact with them. So it’s become a very powerful portrait tool, let alone the one that’s always with me that I’m creating all this cool image. And when I when I photographed the rip in the sky, I had the GFX on me. And I wasn’t in any rush. I was leading a workshop group. But it was it was like I chose that because of the way the images feel right out of the camera. Like they have a feeling that is much different than the other a lot smaller megapixel. It just they’re just wrong. It’s the most filmic looking camera I’ve ever shot. That’s

Matt Stagliano 53:32
digital, for sure. Yeah. And it’s you know, I kind of fell in love with Fuji for that reason. And then when I saw the images coming out of this, this Rico, I jumped on it because it was the same look that I was after I love shooting a wide portrait. I love more environmental stuff. I like more in my frame. And this just lends itself perfectly to that. And I think there’s something to be said for it not getting in the way not only of the artist, but of the subject, you don’t have this big thing staring at you, it becomes unobtrusive, right. And it’s much more in line with a cell phone. Right? People are used to seeing something this size. So this is not all that different. And when like you said you do get the ability to know what the tool can do, and how you can best utilize it in what setting right? It becomes incredibly powerful. But again, it ties back to what you were saying earlier, you already have the portrait of the sky being ripped in your head, like you already had that image created in your head. It was just oh, I’m going to use the Ricoh versus the Fuji because I know this tool will best display what I’m already seeing. Right so it’s it’s less about I’ve got this cool new camera, look at the pictures I can take its look at the pictures that I can create. I just need to pull this tool out instead to make what I am already seeing. And I think that’s a really, it’s an interesting way to go about gear and it’s the right approach in my opinion, to understand that it’s just tools man it’s just stuff But you’ve got to be able to look beyond what it can do. And you have to look at what it is that you want to create, and you know, back into the tools that you need to use for that right? contractor doesn’t go out and say, Well, I’ve got a hammer. And I’ve got to screw this thing in, let me just bang away at it right and using the same camera, and over and over, you just can’t do it. So anyway, I just I appreciate the fact that the work that I’ve seen you do with this is always very soulful, in a different way, because it’s less about lens choice and perfect perfection. It’s about feeling and emotion. And yeah, you’ve been able to do that.

Parker Pfister 55:40
And one thing I’ll add is that I think today with what the what the cameras can do, this is a very capable camera. It is a deep menu, it can do all the things that humans can do, really, besides eye tracking, and all that kind of stuff. But like I break when I teach, I’ve been breaking my because I get asked all the time, like, Where does this creative? Where does your creativity come from? Like, how do you think of that idea? Where does that come from? And I could never answer that question until several years ago, I broke down. Then that wasn’t even several years ago, it was last year, I was on my way to an Oregon workshop. And I went into the woods for eight hours. And I wasn’t going to come out until I had rewritten the whole workshop that was started the next day. And that’s the way I roll I like I don’t like to do things the same, right? You remember? Oh, I yeah, I was totally jazzed about this because I found the words to express. And it was through personifying my, the archetypes that live live within me to get to that place. So that’s how I, okay, so that’s how I can voice this. And it’s like, I got to have the dreamer, because the dreamer, he like, dreams up all the stuff and comes up. He’s the one with the curiosity. And then we’ve got the architect who’s always watching the edge of the frames, does this make my heart happy? Does this make me feel off balance? Good, bad, you know all that. It’s like the architect, he’s got to line everything up. And then the technician who carries out the exposure, the timing is like, I can do it this way to create this to make the dreamer happy, because he wants this, this very flowing, lovely thing. So the technician has to jump on board. And then the architect steps in is like, Well, is he going to run in the frame or out of the frame, like all this is going on? And then you’ve got the Zen master, who’s got to take all of that in context and be like, Okay, I’ve got this, we’ve got it all figured out for the Zen master takes over. And then he hands it over to the magician. And the magician is the last one. And he just does his thing. And whatever happens happens. And the magician says, you need a bird. There’s a bird, right? But people what I’ve noticed in my workshops, and I could never have words around this until last year was the camp. Well, I’ve I have said this for a long time that the camera gets in the way of you being a photographer, the photographer gets in the way of you being the artist, right? And recently, in my writing, I found out the artist gets in the way of being a business person. So it keeps going down, right. So I keep evolving and keep learning which we need to do not need we not sure we can do if we want we evolve or we die. So that technician seems to be the hang up for most people. Like they get to the tech they got the technicians down there like they know it inside and out. And then what do they do? Canon announces the new brand new carrier Fuji announces a new brand new cameras so they switch. And now their technician has to go to work again, because they have to learn how to run this damn thing again, which leaves all the other archetypes really, really lonely. And they’re just like, okay, when do I get my turn? Do I get my turn. And I witnessed this at every workshop. Every workshop, the majority of the people are all hung up on the tips and tricks. And I do things very quickly. I do challenges. If you got one minute to do this. Here’s what you’re going to do. You don’t know what you’re doing. But you got one minute to figure it out and go do it. Because that’s, that’s how you sharpen. That’s how you have these interactions with people and create the images like that and you like I’m trying to get them into my head a little bit but unlock who they are to do that. So that technician gets completely flooded and overwhelmed by the new camera equipment and I watch it again and again and again. And again. It’s like Alright y’all just Get your damn camera on auto for this time. Let’s just go, you know?

Matt Stagliano 1:00:06
Yeah, there’s the one minute drills are terrifying. They are adrenaline inducing. They are great ways to show the deficiencies in your training and your craft. And yeah, it’s, I love it. And for those of you watching that haven’t attended one of Parker’s workshops, I will vouch I’ve been to many of them. It is an experience, unlike other workshops, and I think the difference is the approach to photography that is far different than come learn lighting, or come learn how to use your camera or shoot fashion or whatnot, you spend more time on developing the artists themselves to think for themselves and problem solve for themselves. Rather than Come let’s all shoot over each other’s shoulders and create the same image from you know, 15 different degrees, right based on where we were standing right and taking the taking the nuance taking the artistic voice out of it, when you’re hosting a workshop like that in in your workshops. What I found anyway, is that you’re much more in tune to teaching a method that allows people to see the different sides of themselves and understand how they approach their art a little bit differently how they go from technician to architect to Dreamer to magician, right, how they tie all these things together. When, when I was going through with a new therapist, we talked about the personality types driving the bus who’s driving the bus now is the depressed guy is it the happy guy is it the manifester is it you know, the clingy person, right, all of that stuff who’s driving the bus. And it seems like you’ve been able to rotate everybody through in a nice little shift, and everybody gets their turn driving the bus. But a lot of us don’t do that we don’t allow ourselves the other archetypes to come up and present themselves and get equal time. And when we get too heavy on one or the other, we find ourselves in these ruts of not being creative, or not knowing how to do something because we haven’t taught the technician or you know, rushing because we’re not slowing down. So the the architect doesn’t have the chance to compose or to really think or the dreamer doesn’t have the chance to really look at the scene and figure out what they want to do. And you’ve been able to instill some of these skills through the workshops, which I think is magnificent, and gets lost in this culture of instant gratification. I spend my money I’m going to this I want to create pictures like you tell me what settings I need to put them on.

Parker Pfister 1:02:46
That’s how this works. I don’t teach you how to be me, I teach you how to be you. Right. And that’s what’s important. That scares a lot of people it oh my gosh, it’s a scary I mean, I admit it is it’s scary for me too. Because, you know, I go into these to not really know what I’m going to do not know what personalities I’m going to be up against. Or like it’s it’s a it’s a scary place. But it’s man once once you see somebody light up when they really see their their dream or come alive or their architect and they saw that and it’s like, oh, I cleaned it up. I didn’t click the elbow or put

Matt Stagliano 1:03:31
it out there no message received. I understand.

Parker Pfister 1:03:34
I get it. No, no.

Matt Stagliano 1:03:39
Your shoe or not? You are not cagey in that at all that we saw that coming down.

Parker Pfister 1:03:47
You know, I did it the other day. It is so funny. When it came up on the screen. I’m like, oh, I should send this

Matt Stagliano 1:03:51
to bad. So the really funny thing. The funny thing is the inside joke here is that a lot of times, Parker and I will get together on Zoom or whatnot. And we’ll just kind of show each other what we shot that week. And it’s always you know, I bring to Parker some of the portraits that I’ve shot that I’m really excited about. And I look at them and I’m like, Look at this. Look at the expression look at the soul. He’s just like, cut that toe off, did you the bottom of that bottom of that foot? An elbow there, right? Just couldn’t, couldn’t slow down and back off a half as half a step and just get everything in frame. And it’s very hard to cut it somewhere else. Yeah. And and you would think that I would have learned at this point. But the funny part is now when I’m shooting, I’ve got this little bearded angel on my shoulder going like look at the elbows, right and there’s this little troll that sits there. Ki J J i think I’m gonna call them Parker J Jr. and just sits there and gets me but it’s it’s how I get better calm. positions, it’s how I slow down and do it. So you get in the heads, man, you know, that’s not

Parker Pfister 1:05:06
to say, you know, if, if you’re in wartime and somebody’s throwing a grenade, and kids are in the background with, with guns pointing at the grenade and there’s fire and smoking, and you clip the guy’s toe, it’s no big fucking deal, right? It’s just like, it’s not about the toe. It’s about this scene. It’s like, don’t don’t get me wrong. There are some things that you’re allowed to cut off, but when you’re at it when you’ve got time and just just get on deck.

Matt Stagliano 1:05:40
Sorry, sorry. I’ll keep working on it. Keep working on it. Hey, so what music you’ve been into lately, like so we played guitar a bunch, but what do you been listening to? Well,

Parker Pfister 1:05:53
Camp released some new stuff. And there’s a new album coming out. So I’m really stoked about camp. I’ve always been a camp Fancy a MP. Love camp. Still, you know, gosh, let’s see what I listened to yesterday. I listen to camp. Townes Van Zandt? Oh, a little, a little. Yep,

Matt Stagliano 1:06:20
little bit everything. And everything.

Parker Pfister 1:06:23
Totally lost my, my train of thought. But, ya

Matt Stagliano 1:06:26
know, I mean, to cut tangent so quickly, but I know that you were collecting old guitars for a while. And you were hunting for those old acoustics. Have you picked up anything new? And have you tried playing anything new on them and written anything new?

Parker Pfister 1:06:43
No, I have I have played and written a few little things that aren’t aren’t fleshed out at all yet. But I haven’t gotten a new and like I’m totally content with my, my gear. It’s the same as it’s a tool, you know, and I’m sitting there looking at her. But it’s just like the cameras like I know how to play her. I know we get along, we have the great conversation. I don’t want a new guitar. I don’t like I’ve got my three. And they all serve a very unique sound and purpose. It’s like my Rico and my eight by 10 and my Fuji GFX and I’m pretty much set.

Matt Stagliano 1:07:22
Now I wanted to I wanted to ask about that because I know with you being this, well rounded artists that has nothing to do with physical shape. I’m not body shaming, Parker. Very spelt, but as a well rounded artists. You write music and you make film? Do you put your music in your film?

Parker Pfister 1:07:47
Ever? Not yet, your own stuff. And there’s been several plans of that. That I haven’t. I haven’t pulled the trigger on. But, you know, it’ll, it’ll eventually happen. One of my friends actually use one of my songs in his video. But it was a video to me celebrating my 50th birthday. Like he put it off put everybody’s comments when everybody it was phenomenal. Yeah, you were there. And, and, you know, on the background music that he recorded me and I didn’t even know he’s recording it. And it’s really beautiful. It works for that.

Matt Stagliano 1:08:33
Yeah, no, it was it was gorgeous. I remember. And when you submitted that clip, I was absolutely blown away by it. So anyway, I just want to talk about your music a little bit. So I want to get back to your kind of this, this camera, photography anti hero. And what I mean by that. And I don’t mean it in a bad way. You’re, you’re out on this island by yourself. You are such an interesting entity in the foot in the photography world, because of your environmental pictures because of your portraits because of the video because of the workshops because of the books because the printing, because of the things that people don’t know about textures in digital art, and you know, the influence on some of the stuff that we use every day and older tools and software and you had your fingers in a lot of pies. Have you noticed the photography industry getting any easier or harder to navigate? Is it more saturated? Is it just a different version of the same thing from 20 years ago, but you’re just older and more wise? Have you noticed any landscape shifts in everything that you do that’s causing you to go a different direction, right. You’ve never seemed to me to strike me as someone that follows what everybody else is doing. because you live in the state of curiosity and wonder, do you ever find yourself looking at the industry and trying to do something different on purpose? Or you just do what you do? And it just happens to be different and individual? Like,

Parker Pfister 1:10:14
Well, I think there was a, I say no, because I don’t I try not to look at the industry too much, to be honest, and it’s not like a selfish asshole thing. I guess it is a selfish thing, because I don’t want it to influence me, I want my influence to come within. But then, you know, there’s, and there’s a bad side of that, to that you can like depending on where you are, as an artist, I think is when to lead up looking at other things and do it yourself. But I think it’s it’s an overwhelming world right now in gear especially, and software, all the things you can do, like my computer, I had a 2012 iMac that died two months ago, three months ago. And I had, I was forced to get a new computer. So I got the new Mac Studio. And in doing so I couldn’t use my Photoshop six anymore. So I was really bummed about that. And I couldn’t use my Lightroom five. So these are the tools that I use up until three months ago. So now I’m plugged into this world of Photoshop, whatever it is 2023 that can replace skies, that can replace subjects clone do all this stuff. And it’s, it’s it’s not exciting to me in the least, at like in the least, because I think it’s just the sky changing thing is sacrilegious in my realm, it’s very sacrilegious. It’s like, you know, with my my bird situation that I have, I get accused sometimes like, oh, you put those but there’s no way you put those birds in there. I’m just like, nope, fuck off. I did not you can you can point fingers all you want, but it’s just against my religion. And, and I think that’s just my background coming from that. And, you know, if I did it in the dark room, then it would say, you know, this is a this is a composite type thing in the darkroom? Like, I just don’t do it digitally. So I think it’s very I would imagine, like entering the well, you know, I mentor several folks, I just finished up three mentor sessions started three new ones. And there’s a lot of confusion for people. It’s like, oh, what software? What do I need? What do you say what you need is Photoshop six and Photoshop or Lightroom five, or not even that, like get a Rico and shoot a JPEG. And it’s done. You don’t have to do anything to it. Right. So I think there’s a lot of confusion. It’s like what people think they really need. And what they really need is just simplicity. Just simplicity and idea and need simplicity and idea and then figure out what they need after that, you know, and I think right out of the gate go out of the gate. If you’re coming into the photography world with the camera selection and the software and the backdrops and the you know, everybody’s selling everything. It’s it’s got to be super overwhelming. Like I keep my head in the sand quite a bit. And it’s still like borderline overwhelming for me. So

Matt Stagliano 1:13:45
no, and you know, it is it’s ridiculously overwhelming. And I’ll speak you know, as someone that’s only been doing photography in any way shape, or form for about 10 years, but only doing portraits for about four now. I feel this pressure to be using the latest and greatest software to keep up right. At the same time. There’s a majority of me that pulls back and says just create, don’t touch anything, get it, get it raw, and write or don’t get it at all, you know, and I’m kind of caught between these two worlds. And I think a lot of photographers are right where they’re producing client work and there’s a certain expectation again, there’s that word expectation, right? For having clean skin and good light and all that sort of stuff. And then there’s the raw emotion of something that’s less technically perfect. Maybe there’s a little bit of motion blur, but it still tells a great story. People are so quick to say this is not perfect focus perfect everything therefore it’s not a word. The picture always bothered me, and I find in looking through my own work and other people’s work. This stuff that I’m most drawn to, or the imperfections are the things that have a little bit more grit and grime and missed focus and, but there’s feeling in it. And it’s been hard to divorce myself from that, especially if you stay in the world of competition at all, and you’re trying to do things, and you’re trying to play that game, but it doesn’t necessarily fit the style. It’s such a weird place to be. But I think like you’re saying, people are so focused on the technical aspects of the software and having the latest and greatest in the cameras and that they forget about the why they’re doing this in the first place, and what it is that they’re trying to create. And there’s that bit of soul that I think gets lost, every year that something new comes out, that could very well be me just being an old guy complaining about things. But I think there is a little bit of soul that gets lost, the more and more and more that we focus on technique and gear and technique and gear, that we’re losing part of that thing that makes photography so fun, or art or creation in general, it doesn’t even have to be photography,

Parker Pfister 1:16:10
I think yes and no. Okay, go ahead.

Matt Stagliano 1:16:14
I don’t want to interrupt. You know what I but I think what I mean is because we have the ease of all these tools, it’s easy to do a lot more things, it doesn’t mean, you have to do all the things. Right. Right. And, you know, I’m a big fan of the simplicity first, and then adding on if need be, can you use the tools to enhance what you see. But instead, people are thinking about, I’ve got all these tools? I’ve got to use them? Well, no, you know, you really don’t. So, but i That was the thought I wanted to finish. So go ahead. You’re saying yesterday,

Parker Pfister 1:16:48
I just I think there’s there’s a couple of camps there. Me being in the you know, create the image before you push the shutter. And then there’s the camp of pushing the shutter a whole lot of times, and not not because they don’t know what they’re doing. But because their forward vision of this lies in post, right where my forward vision lies in my my time coming up to creating that single or two images. But they have other ideas that are equally as you know, there’s no right or wrong, there’s no right or wrong, anything in art, right? It’s just, it just is this whatever. So I think that camp over here, photographed a lot of stuff, and they’re just technical, or computer savvy technicians that I am not for sure, they can do just incredible things. And that screams who they are. So I think they figured it out, you know, and that’s their way of doing it. Which is, which is amazing. Now, I’ve had several of those camps come to my workshops. And I’m like, What the hell are you doing here, you’re gonna, you’re not gonna like this at all. You get one shot, and you get 20 minutes to make it. So what are you gonna do with that? 20 minutes, right, I forced them into this other way of thinking, and, but what they can take from that side, and then what I can take from watching them of what they do. And then that’s how we just go up the rungs, you know, and climb to the top, you get that good view?

Matt Stagliano 1:18:37
Yeah, I think it’s the tool and the gear and that conversation. I mean, you can you can slice and dice it a million different ways. I just think that the momentum seems to be picking up. Because we have access to see everything you know, it’s not even like things are released. Now. We’re getting the pre release of the pre release, to get people excited about what’s coming out and to already make them start feeling like this isn’t good enough. Well, just because something gets released doesn’t mean this automatically stops working right. And I’m just using a lot more my phone I’m using the Ricoh a lot more I’m using older gear, I had to grab my old Canon T three i the other day and take some product photos. And I was like, this thing still works incredibly well for the job it’s intended to do so I don’t know we can get caught up in the gear stuff all day long. But there’s a couple of other things that I just kind of wanted to chat about. And it kind of ties into this whole artistic freedom part. And it’s the alternative processing the alternative ways of of producing work. And one of the things that I’ve seen you do over the years is go out on a limb on processing because you print so much, you have no problem mixing methods or trying something new or freezing pictures in cookie sheets or And then taking photos of that the alternative process seems to be such a sacrilege these days, right? To go about things so differently. You’re like, what are you doing? You’re going to ruin that beautiful paper? You’re

like, yeah, that’s, that’s part of the art. Like,

I know, you teach a workshop on alternative processing or alternative methods or however you want to describe it. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think it’s, it’s an important piece that’s not being talked about anywhere else, for exploration for growth of an artist. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Parker Pfister 1:20:36
Well, I think, I think the alternative process type workshop, thing that I’ve got planned is only for those who deem what I am doing as alternative process. So meaning, I can take an alternative process workshop, and I would be going to so this is what if I were to attend an alternative workshop, alternative process workshop, I would go to a, a person who is creating lots and lots of images, and really working on them in post, changing the skies out, putting in lighting, doing all of this stuff. And using a digital camera, that is alternative process to me, right. So it’s the way we think about what an alternative process is. So for me, my what I have is alternative process isn’t really my alternative process. It’s your processes, right? But to others, I have to call it something because they’re like, What the hell is like how, what, what, like, a lot of it, you just can’t really even wrap your head around because curiosity gets the best of me. It’s just like, I’m gonna rip up a bunch of pictures, prints, and then photograph the ripped up pieces to create a whole nother set of images, right? And a whole nother storyline. It’s like, how do I get past like, this is what this means to me. But what if I did this? What would that mean to me? What would that mean to the image? So I just keep that? Well, you’ve been in my workshop, take it one more step. One more step, one more step, I force people to take one more step. And it’s like, for me, it’s like, the idea of the printed piece being the finale, like that’s the end of your journey, you’ve, you’ve dreamed it up, the technician came on board, the architect, the dreamer, the Zen master, put it all together the magician through the burden. Now you get to look at it on your computer, and then you get to hit print, and you print it up, and you put it on the wall for all to see, especially me. And that’s the end of its life. And I didn’t like that like it. Why does that have to be the end of the life? Why does the print have to be the end of the meaning that I can get from this? So like, there for me, there’s more questions in this print hanging over here. Right? So it’s like, I got to know the rest of the story. What is the rest of the story? Where can this go? What there’s more of a story that it is hiding in the shadows. And I can bring those out by doing something to it. What can I do to what does this mean to me right now? But what could it mean if I put it under water and tea and wine and then froze it in a snap freeze in the winter on my front porch? And then rephotographed through the ice? Like what? What would that mean? Where does that take the story, or if I just rip them up and put it together? Then all these stories of all these prints start colliding, and creating its own story. And then you start building this community with your work. And it. It’s it’s kind of maddening and beautiful. And there’s a lot to it. And I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, as you can tell I’m a little fired up about it. So yeah,

Matt Stagliano 1:24:15
I think it’s, you know, it’s it’s really fun as I listen to it, you’re you’re the analog version of Photoshop. You’re just you’re doing all of these things you’re combining, you’re masking, your compositing, you’re doing all of these things, changing color grades, whatnot, you’re just doing it in and out analog way, right, you’re using different tools. And it’s always fascinating to me just to watch that because I think people have in their mind that, you know, once you get to that point, it’s done. It’s printed, it’s finalized. It’s made real, it’s made physical, therefore nothing else can be done with it. You’re like, Ah, I’m halfway done. Oh, my beer, right? And you just keep working with it and keep working. Keep working with it. So you know I liken the processes to digital artists, right? Doing all fantasy stuff and and what you’re doing with with printed work as well. It’s relatively the same. Just keep mixing and matching and playing and molding until what you want emerges. And you feel like best expresses that right?

Parker Pfister 1:25:17
I think with one exception is that it seems like most of the digital manipulation that is going on strives for perfection or perfection and like lining things up properly. It gives the illusion of I go the way the opposite way. Like I don’t want perfection. I want happenstance. I want happy accidents, right? I have no idea what this is going to do when it freezes. And why did that one turn that way? And that one turned this way. And they’re sitting right next to each other? What happened here? Did a raccoon come in in the middle of the night and put that there? How did the air bubbles get under that one? And not this one? Like how did you know thrown this pile of prints on the thing? How do these lineup like I have no idea. And it shows it’s not supposed to be trickery, or wizardry even though I have the beard for it? It’s it’s a it’s just happenstance. And that’s where I live. I love

Matt Stagliano 1:26:16
that. Well, Dumbledore. I think it’s a fearlessness that I think the word fearless keeps coming to mind when I think about everything that you do, because it does have that curiosity and wonder. But you’re not afraid of what happens if I printed this thing out, and then I rip it in half, and I stick it on top of this other one, and I take a picture and it doesn’t work. Alright, let me try it again. And you you know, you don’t stop there and say, Wow, this is a failure. You say, Wow, okay, well, what have I learned? How do I move forward and try something different until you get there and it takes a certain amount of resistance to fear, or just understanding that fear is going to exist, resistance is going to exist? Work through it, keep pushing through it. And I think you know, you’ve been able to develop that muscle where you see that resistance and you see that fear? And you’re like, Yep, I acknowledge it, I’m moving right past it anyway, which allows you to create things in a certain you know, you have a certain voice because of that, where a lot of other artists may stop just short of it just short of that realization. Because they they allow that fear to creep in a little bit more. So I see it quite a bit. But I love

Parker Pfister 1:27:32
I love fear. I love failure. That’s where I learned that’s my learning ground.

Matt Stagliano 1:27:38
So speaking of learning grounds, and magic and fearlessness, and your affinity for cooking in the kitchen tonight. What’s for dinner? What are you attempting to create tonight?

Parker Pfister 1:27:49
Tonight? I cooked yesterday. So Sunday was my cook day?

Matt Stagliano 1:27:55
Guy or like do you prep meals for the week? Or are you like an instantaneous

Parker Pfister 1:28:00
I did for quite a while and then I quit. And so last night is I cooked some really quick, like grass fed meat balls, grass fed beef meatballs, grass feed meatballs, and grass fed salmon. Are you kidding? And I have some chicken thighs that I just threw on the barbecue last night. And then made a bunch of broccoli and brussel sprouts. So I’m gonna munch on those for the next two or three days. Because I got a lot of stuff that I have to get done. So I’m very busy this week. So I’m like I need to prep meal this week. So I can maintain a healthy eating because that’s one thing that’s really knocked me out for the last month is like something’s gone on with my health and just feeling really low down and tired. And I don’t have the energy to do all this stuff. So I’m trying to get that back by really watching what I’m eating. And it’s working really well. So I’m excited going out for like I did a 35 minute walk right before this. So I’m just trying to get going in this world of I don’t know

Matt Stagliano 1:29:13
what’s next. Well, when am I going to see you again? When are we going to have a chance to share a drink?

Parker Pfister 1:29:18
Soon, I hope Oh yeah. I quit drinking for 100 days to starting three days ago.

Matt Stagliano 1:29:23
So where are you? What are we going to share some time at a bar where you watch me drink?

Parker Pfister 1:29:26
There you go. Gosh, soon, I hope soon. Like I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I’ve got

Matt Stagliano 1:29:35
Yeah, well, I owe you a trip to Asheville. You made your way to Maine. God was a year ago already. Yeah. And so I owe you a return trip to Asheville. So I’ll fulfill that into my bargain. But thanks, man. Thanks for hanging out and doing this today. It’s cool. Any chance I have to kind of get the free mentoring right I was Trying to rack up the minutes here. But, you know, under the guise of public service, I’m hoping that I don’t get an invoice for this. So you were talking about business? I know you’re trying to get better at business. Yes. Spare me one more day. Just suck until tomorrow. That way I don’t get charged. Okay. Thank you, man so much. Where can people find you? What’s coming up? Is there anything that you want to plug away on this just to get some folks interested?


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