Featured Photographer: Randall Collis
Welcome to the 12th edition of the Featured Photographer monthly post. Please meet Randall Collis, also known with artist name as Dalo Collis. I have been following his blog for years and admiring his photography and writing. I am sure some of readers have been familiar with Randall’s photography at Global Sojurn Photography. But, do you know what has inspired his works? Let’s find out through my interview with him on the following post.
If there were one thing you would want the readers to know about you, what would it be?
The one thing would be the best advice I could ever give in addition to working hard: contemplate everything around you and dream.
I daydream all the time, not random daydreams, but dreams with a purpose. About work, life, a specific scene I’d like to shoot. These daydreams may never come to fruition, but they plant a seed.
I love to dream. To be honest, this drives people around me crazy.
When did you get into photography and who/what inspired you to do it?
I caught the photography bug when I was nine years old; my Grandma gave me a point-and-shoot camera for Christmas. Inspiration came from my Dad and his Canon AE-1. He’d treat us to slide shows every so often, and they were the best. My older sister, Sandi, also inspired me as she started serious photography in college and as her little brother, I remember being confused wondering how could ‘my sister’ be so good.
What is in your bag (the camera, lens, accessories) when planning to take images?
Two key items: Canon 5D Mark-III and a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, an ideal partnership. If I carry additional lenses: Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8 and the very heavy, but artistic, 85mm f/1.2.
I’ve also become a recent user of the mirror-less system. Canon does not have a viable option here for me, so I bought a Sony Alpha 7R. Along with their 35mm f/2.8 lens, it is lightweight, compact, and packs a nice punch. Due to a lot of travel, it is my most used set-up this year.
A Manfrotto tripod and various filters round out my bag.
You combined photography and philosophy to present your art, as you stated: “there will also be occasions when the mood strikes that philosophy via photography will be combined”. How do you define such occasions during the process?
If I can engage emotionally with what I am shooting, I become part of the scene. This allows me a freedom to empathize, to be creative without having to think too much about what it is I am doing. Every scene is different, and for me, every scene has its own culture. Being open-minded, therefore, is very important. Most of us were raised within one culture, often formed by our hometown or neighborhood. The world is made up of what seems to be an infinite number of cultures, and this is where the excitement lies.
Many people fear differences the same way they fear change, believing it is safer to remain at status quo rather than to accept the risk of change. However, the risk is a perfect spice for life and adding change is a gift to create something special. In photography, the same truth applies. Embracing change is part of my philosophy and bleeds into all I do. When I get in a philosophical mood during a shoot, I am on an equal plane with the scene and my photography can capture the emotion and evoke a response I would otherwise be unable to create. I fail at it often, but when it comes together, boom, I feel a sense of peace.
To find such a mood, I often repeat a line my sister wrote in my journal before I took off overseas for the first time: “Take it slow, keep it simple.” Perfect for photography and life.
Is it the wisdom that is inspiring your photography or is it the photography that makes the existing wisdom enriched?
Both. They play off each other. Every scene I shoot has something special, something new. Prior to a shoot, I love to be by myself, to become a bit entranced by what is around me. To enjoy the scenery, the ambiance and even if the scene is sad, there is energy. This energy is where the emotion/wisdom begins to collaborate with what my photographic eye sees. If my desire to become part of the scene is strong, it will be a good shoot. It is an enriching experience, especially if I am in a different country. I continually learn and adapt, the only way to move forward.
The best feeling is the night after a great shoot; I lay awake marveling at the people, the area, and my mind races throughout the night. Every place I’ve traveled, I have captured such a feeling, something special and thought to myself “I could be happy living here.”
Three of your posts are about the children, society and Save the Children’s work in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. The images and your thoughts about these countries are inspiring. They told us the other side of the nations’ survival. How did you feel when documenting these countries and Save the Children’s work?
Answering the last question had me thinking of these countries J. All beautiful places and I have strong feelings of attachment for each. I feel honored documenting the work and the people.
The one constant is the curiosity of the children. Their smiles make it impossible not to see the good in life, to smile throughout the day. Great, great people, and while every place has stories of hardship and difficulties, the thread of truth all cultures around the world hold sacred is clear, create future opportunities for the children.
It is heartbreaking to get a glimpse of their hardship. There is a helpless guilt when witnessing people struggle, but it is lifted when seeing the great effort and pride in rebuilding these areas. This was especially true in Nepal and the Philippines, where the local population is rebuilding after natural disasters. It is inspiring to see the dedication of the people surrounded by such natural beauty and holding onto their own unique philosophy of life. Each holding something special, something I’ve not found in other places.
Sri Lanka is beautiful as well, but there we did not deal with natural disasters. Instead, the issue was deeply embedded discrimination within their culture, the quiet exploitation by large tea plantations of the Tamil minority group, members of the lowest caste system in Sri Lanka. The change will be very slow. The lack of opportunities for the Tamil children is heartbreaking.
From many countries that you have visited and you have lived in, which one has inspired your photography most?
I would have to say Hong Kong for several reasons. It is an incredibly diverse city, a great place to dream. At one end of the spectrum, wander outside the city and there is a beautiful countryside or you may choose the many incredible islands to explore. At the other end of the spectrum, there is Hong Kong Island and taking Star Ferry across the harbor to the crowded alleys and chaos of Tsimshatsui.
Overall, Hong Kong is a perfect blend of the East and West. Bright lights and dark shadows, a contrast that makes this city so powerful for me.
Would you like to leave a special message or advice to readers about photography and the art of writing?
Keep things simple. Around the world, I think life is made unnecessarily complex and complicated and this separates people from things that matter. My work, photography & writing, and my friendships are based on a very simple foundation: simplicity and honesty. Work hard and everything will take care of itself.
The ups & downs are the energy of life.
Can’t get enough of Randall’s Photography?