My first year in Film school I dreamt of working with big directors on big films. My second year in film school I got my first gig as a nightclub videographer. Once I graduated, I worked for a magazine style food show producing infomercials for national products. My career didn’t quite take the path my wild imagination had planned… dreams of a Hollywood star and a scribbled Emmy speech. Those were good dreams, very good dreams that led me to work with some very talented people.
Steve Procko is one of those people. I had the pleasure of working with Steve who is a very talented Director, Cameraman and Photographer over at Altman Procko some years back. It was one of those rare opportunities where I was mentored by a great team of talented people, and those experiences have impacted my life forever.
I had the good fortune to interview Steve recently… I wanted to share with everyone what a gifted man he is.
GC: When did you first discover your interest in photography?
SP: I started taking pictures when I was around 10 and one of my buddies Dad set up a darkroom for him in his garage. It expanded from there because I was in journalism starting in eighth grade – It became an extension of my writing as I began working for the local newspaper and then went on to major in Journalism and Broadcasting in college. The photography was always a part of it.
GC: Could you tell us about some of your favorite photography work?
SP: Usually the latest stuff I have done. Once I started shooting commercials, I stopped making stills. So for about 10 years I shot nothing. Then I picked up the camera again around 1990 and started to shoot large format black and white landscapes. When I would travel on commercial jobs, I would haul around a 50 lb backpack with a 4×5 camera, lenses, holders, etc. Now I shoot with a Nikon D7000 and my cel phone! Can’t get the 4×5 film anymore! I like to try and shoot something new on every trip I make.
GC: You segued from photography to cinematography and then into Directing. What lessons have you learned along the way?
SP: Always stay ahead of the technology curve or you become a dinosaur. And when the latest and greatest economic downturn comes along- reinvent your style.
GC: What art medium do you most identify with, photography or film?
SP: Photography. I like the classic photographers. Edward and Brett Weston, Ruth Bernhardt, Arnold Newman, Ansel Adams, William Garnett. But a couple of contemporary artists I like are Michael Kenna and Annie Liebowitz.
GK: What’s your favorite movie and why?
SP: No one favorite in particular. I like a wide range of styles – some for technique reasons and others for the entertainment value.
GK: If you could apprentice with any Director, who would that be?
SP: Stanley Kubrick – He had such a varied body of work and really controlled all aspects of his production. Think about it. This is the guy who did Clockwork Orange, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Barry Lyndon and Full Metal Jacket! Amazing!
GK: Many of my readers are food bloggers, any words of advice for photographing food?
SP: Yeah, you usually can’t eat the food in the best looking food photography because it’s got all sorts of stuff on it, or is only cooked 20% of what its supposed to be. It’s nuts what you have to do to it to look good. I remember shooting a commercial for McDonald’s and having the stylist cutting each french fry with scissors before frying them – then hand selecting and setting each one in the container with tweezers. It’s usually best to work with a soft source as a main light and edge the item you are photographing with a harder light. I like plain window light sometimes – keep it simple. BTW, I’m a ‘foody’ too – do lots of cooking, love trying new techniques – I have cut sugar completely from my diet so I am always working on ways to create things with healthy replacements. I think the web is a great outlet. Love some of the short videos people are doing on this.
Like many creative minds, it turns out Steve is a man of many talents. He’s even a great baker, too. Steve’s showing us how he’s reinvented cake with a healthier twist, taking out the guilt and adding great-for-you fruits, agave, spelt and whole wheat flours. I simply couldn’t let him slip away without sharing one of his delicious recipes with us, like this “Whole Wheat Carrot Pineapple Cake”. If he keeps this up we may have to have him back as regular contributor.
Whole Wheat Carrot Pineapple Cake
Super Moist and delicious carrot cake. You can use spelt, barley and brown rice flour blend as an alternative.
The Cream Cheese Frosting, which is incredible, can be made in minutes and only uses 2/3 cup agave vs. 6 cups of powdered sugar, saving you over 3,000 calories!
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups Agave Nectar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups crushed pineapple (with juice)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Cup Golden Raisins
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 325°F for 50 – 60 minutes. Let cool and frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Easy to make and saves you 3,000 calories over the sugar equivalent and tastes better.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2/3 cup Agave Nectar
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and blend until smooth with an electric mixer. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Use as a frosting on carrot cake, chocolate cake, brownies, zucchini bread, banana bread, etc.
Thanks, Steve! There’s one more thing I want to leave you with… A short film by Steve: Vote Early, Vote Often. Enjoy!