© Tim Navis Photography 2016

Q&A with LA photographer Tim Navis

For me, it started with Tim Navis. Organic and pulsing tones that breathe life. Arresting portraits of anyone, really, Navis zeroes in on the mood and fervor of his subject. Simplified, to the point, and sublime all the same, his sense of color and black and white or often looked upon for inspiration, as well as oft copied; much of my color and double exposure looks are directly influenced by Navis.

While I haven’t met the guy, I’m sure our paths will cross someday, whether on a dessert hike or some bar in LA, it was surely a pleasure to get a few of his thoughts on life, photography, and pants.

© Tim Navis Photography 2016

How do you pronounce Navis. Nay-vis? Or Nah-vis? Nah-vee?


What makes you tick?

Wandering the empty aisles of a grocery store at 2:30 a.m. while forgotten top 40’s hits from another generation or two plays faintly on a tinny sounding speaker. There’s a strange calming about being surrounded by the familiarity of everything.

How did you get started in commercial photography? (Or, photography in general)

For years I was a painter and I bought a Canon 30D to photograph my paintings. Eventually, photography took over and I became obsessed with it.

You’ve recently gone from creating stunning and rich portraiture to desolate sweeping landscapes. Why the drastic change?

Ultimately, I felt unsatisfied with where my work was headed.

My previous landscape work was so over the top, processing wise, and had no direction or narrative. It felt like I was doing a disservice to mother nature because none of it was real. I began to think about why I like the photographers I do and the one thing they all have in common is a beautiful narrative.

The problem with digital is that there are no limits, boundaries and almost no consequences. I have a hard time working within those parameters because I can never make up my mind and I tend to be all over the place.

Shooting film works for me because there are inherent limits, boundaries and consequences and I prefer to work within those elements as I am able to create a more linear narrative with my work that I feel is important in one’s artistic vision. I still do portraits when the occasion arises but my heart lies in photographing the west.

© Tim Navis Photography 2016
Scott Hansen (Tycho)

Who’s been your favorite person to capture a portrait with?

Photographing Scott Hansen (Tycho) was a blast. We went to a dry lake bed and that was my first time shooting in such a location. Now, dry lake beds are a staple in my work for now. I had my friend start drifting circles in his car around Scott and I to kick up some dust in the setting sun.

For your old work, where did you get your color inspiration from? For your newer work, what black and white tones inspire you most?

That’s a great question. I don’t really study other photographers all that much as I draw inspiration from other artists like painters and musicians.

Back in the day, I was really influenced by the bright colors of street art and that might have played a roll in why my early work was so saturated. I also love thumbing through old National Geographic magazines. I think those two elements were highly influential in my early work.

© Tim Navis Photography 2016

I have always loved black and white but I was never happy with how I produced my black and white, digitally. There was no subtlety to my pictures. Everything was obnoxiously contrasty and in your face and this started to wear on me.

Once I began to understand how film worked for my particular style and being able to extract the subtleties from the medium, I made the decision to completely ditch color and digital photography all together. What inspired me to start shooting black and white is how timeless and classic black and white can be, and that’s incredibly important to my new work. I want there to be no clues as to what era the photos were taken in, and color can give the viewer an idea of when the photo was taken.

© Tim Navis Photography 2016
The West (Winter Light)

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done and what made you do it?

I would say attempting to walk across America in 2013. I guess you could say I had a bit of a crisis and felt this strong urge to do something outrageous and quit my entire life in Los Angeles and began my trek on the east coast.

About a week into it, I called it quits due to injuries sustained and the overall danger of the task. Two men were killed attempting to walk across America the same year I tried and I’m fortunate that I didn’t become a third. Since then, it’s taken me about three years to bounce back and regain some control of my life. Looking back at it all, I’m glad I did it because I grew leaps and bounds from the experience.

© Tim Navis Photography 2016
The West (Icon)

What’s in store for the future, Navis wise?

More black and white for sure, and the purchase of a large format camera. I would love to begin work on iconic animals that are native to their various regions throughout the west and promoting the importance of nature conservancy through the work.

Favorite pair of pants, ever?

I spend 99% of my life in board shorts. With that said, Ripcurl makes the best board shorts.

Check out more on Tim Navis’ commercial work, his more recent analog studies, or Instagram.

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