Questions and answers with Benjo Arwas.

{January 2020}

Title: Breakfast with Cameron Monaghan
Home: Tel Aviv, Israel. Currently - Los Angeles, California.

Where was the final image from this photoshoot featured?

On my Instagram page.

Give us a bit of background on the photoshoot concept.

I photographed Cameron a few times in the past and we've always had a good collaboration process and understanding. We arranged this photoshoot with the team where we wanted to capture something timeless and simple. We shot this series in my dining room where the natural light is readily available. Cameron reads the camera really well and he always gives me more creative freedom to capture and move things towards specific angles. I knew Cameron would be patient with me and hand over the trust to capture and execute our vision.

Why did you/your client choose the final image compared to the outtakes?

The final image is just so melancholic for the scenario. It is a simple setup – the composition, lighting and framing takes me to a different place than the other images.

Any cheeky moments during this photoshoot that you'd be willing to share?

There weren’t any cheeky moments per se. However, Cameron and I had good conversations and just all-round interesting philosophical point of views that led us towards a sort of comfortability, which allowed us to capture these intimate moments.

Shed some light on how you got involved in photography.

It's the universe's fault. In 2009, I was teaching surfing in Peniche, Portugal, for few months. One morning, I went out for a surf session and noticed a young photographer taking pictures of everyone surfing. I was curious and asked him some questions. We became friends and he started teaching me and I became really drawn into it. I went back home and started to study photography and its history. I fell in love with it so I signed up for 'photography 101 workshop' – fell more in love with the process and medium – and from there I applied to Brooks Institute Of Photography (RIP) in Santa Barbara, California. The rest is my current journey.

What’s it like being on set with you?

The ego stays outside of my sets. Everyone is a collaborator and a contributor. Rock n' roll music, lots of Polaroids flying around, some fun dances and lots of intense moments when we're losing natural light haha! But mainly, laugher and smiles is our main mood on set.

Do you prefer photographing with a big or small team on set?

I really don't mind. I've been on sets with only myself and the talent, and other sets with over 60 people. When sets are big and demanding of a lot of people, it still feels small as I'm containing and focusing on what's important to my territory and responsibilities. I learned to become a better leader and director with delegating my needs with amazing people around me. Obviously, sets with more team members are a bit more hectic, but I don't mind it as long as I can get my pictures done.

Describe your ideal photoshoot.

Taking a picture is only 1% of the job. An ideal photoshoot is a well prepared one. Prep and communication is my number one requirement for a successful project. From understanding the client's needs, being involved in the creative direction and vision, expressing my opinions, to aligning expectations with the client as well as the producers prior to the shoot.

What makes a photograph special, in your opinion?

In my opinion, a special photograph is one that comes with some sort of accident or experiment. As artists, it’s in our nature to be technically correct but it’s important to not let the technical distract us. The most rewarding moments are when technicality is overruled by just having fun with the camera and the subject.

Express what photography means to you.

Photography for me is a moment in time – 125th of a second at a time. I feel like I can freely document my vision into visual content and share it with the world. Photography actually changed my whole life, perspective, and how I'm observing things on a daily basis, especially without a camera. I appreciate any kind of visual, conversation between people, colors and lights when I'm going about my day. I've become more inspired. I'm more patient when it comes to listening and observing. I'm more curious. As well, the collaborations with other creatives and teams is core for the existence, and I appreciate the relationships and trust built with the client and the creative team. It's very inspirational for the journey.

Do you photograph full-time? If not, what pays the bills?

Yes, I am a full-time Photographer and Director, and I feel very privileged to do so.

Instagram and photography...need we say more? Give us your two cents.

There is an old world market ("Shuk" or "Bazaar") theory I came up with. If you present lemons, people will want to buy lemons. If you present oranges, people will want to buy oranges. Basically, do not share what you don't really believe in or stand for. Not everything has to be shared (lemons)! Keep sharing only the things you truly believe in and that you really want to be hired for (oranges). Share what you want to capture.

Do you have any suggestions to budding photographers out there?

My lesson is inspired by this specific scene from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", Directed by Sergio Leone. Tuco (The Ugly) is in a soapy, bubbly bathtub (unguarded) when a bounty hunter enters the room to attempt kill him, but instead proceeds to talk. Tuco then raises his submersed gun shooting the bounty hunter to death and says, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk". This metaphoric idea provides me with a lot of sense for my mantra. Many photographers and artists, especially emerging and young, prefer to talk about how they could photograph something better. Their focus should instead reflect who they truly are and how they could do better for themselves. Their energy should be used in photographing personal content and creating something unique and inspirational for themselves. Think smart, think creatively and think independently. Capture and execute – don't talk. It's not rocket science, it's a picture.

Any additional info you'd like to share about yourself and/or your photography?

I am awarded by my amazing wife, Samantha – she's a photographer herself! Also, one very smart and adorable 6-year-old daughter, Billy, and a big family with lots of friends who are always supportive. Other than that, I love to travel, casually go people watching to get inspired, watch documentaries (when I have time), and work out, which is my daily meditation.

We obviously believe this outtakes concept is brilliant, but why do you think it's important for outtake photographs to be promoted in the industry?

Ever since I started photography, I found that outtakes are such a great personal memory – not only for the good results, but also for the great day that was had. They're a reminder of the people involved, the moments, the talent, and the effort it took to achieve the desired and final composition/selection. I interned for Douglas Kirkland for a few months while attending Brooks Institute Of Photography. I needed to scan and archive all of his work (1950s-present). I remember being at his home studio between piles and boxes of contact sheets, archiving and discovering the endless stories about each and every shoot. It amazed me so much that I'm now a hoarder of all my contact sheets, polaroids and outtakes. I will be able to share all of my stories one day.

Anything you're working towards with your next move in photography?

I'm always looking for fresh inspiration and ideas. One project at a time, while trying to maintain my passion and aesthetics.

Share a quote you live by.

For life - "It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles."

For photography - "I'm only as good as my last photograph."


︎see the outtakes
︎follow Benjo on Instagram

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