Ed Freeman’s early career was in the music industry; he performed as a folk guitarist and classical lutenist, worked as a road manager on the last Beatles’ tour, played guitar on dozens of pop recordings, wrote orchestral arrangements for artists such as Carly Simon and Cher, produced and arranged over two dozen albums, including Don McLean’s American Pie.
After a mid-life career change, he now creates commercial and fine art photographs that have been featured in hundreds of publications. Two books of his computer-enhanced images have been published. His architectural series – Desert Realty and Western Realty – have been the subject of touring museums shows. Prints of his fine art images are in the permanent collections of several American museums and private collections world-wide.
These days Freeman travels the world taking pictures, teaches Photoshop, still plays piano, is fighting a losing battle to learn Mandarin Chinese and swears mightily that he will write the Great American Symphony one day – whenever he gets some spare time.
How did you get started as a photographer?
I’ve been taking pictures since I was ten. My mother bought me an old view camera and showed me how to use it. In the beginning, I couldn’t afford film, so I shot on enlarging paper. It has an ISO of about 1. So mostly I photographed things that didn’t move much. It was a great education.
Do you have any formal training?
None whatsoever. But I ended up teaching a college class in Photoshop. Sort of ironic, isn’t it…
How do you choose your subjects?
I live in Los Angeles, where there’s no shortage of gorgeous people who what to be photographed naked. I find them at the gym, online, on the street. Most often, anybody who looks good enough for me to be interested in shooting them is somebody who’s put so much time and effort into their appearance, they WANT to have it documented. In any case, it can’t hurt to ask.
How long does it typically take for you to edit/finish an image?
Anywhere from an hour to two weeks. Depends on the image. Some pictures, when I look at them right after I’ve shot them, they look hopeless. I can’t think of what to do with them. And then weeks, or months, or even years later, I revisit them and see something in them I didn’t see before and I turn them into something I’m really happy with.
Who/what inspires you most?
The most inspiring thing is a model who WANTS to use their body to make art. I feed off their creativity and they feed off mine. I love the synergy between artist and model when we’re working together towards a common goal.
Which animal do you most identify with and why?
I had a wolf dog once that was more like me than any human I’ve ever met. We were madly in love with each other. So I guess I’m sort of a half-civilized creature; half-wolf, half-German Shepard. That sounds about right to me.
How do you challenge yourself to grow and stay creative?
That is about the least of my problems. I don’t need to challenge myself – LIFE challenges me. ART challenges me. WAKING UP IN THE MORNING challenges me. There are only two options – creativity, or death – creativity is free and abundant and joyful, and death is, well, who knows. Not a difficult decision to make.
Do you have any future projects/collaborations in the works that you’re excited about?
I’m excited about EVERYTHING. I have enough ideas for projects to last me the next thousand years, and if ever run out, I’m sure other inspirations will occur to me. There’s an infinite number of great ideas out there, just waiting for somebody to pick up on them. You know, it’s the old saw – “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.”
Any advice you’d like to give someone starting out in the industry?
Yeah. Being an artist is a full-time occupation. Being a businessperson is a full-time occupation. As an artist, you’re going to have to be both, so any education you can get that will shorten how much time it takes to learn either will be time well spent.
Don’t waste your very short lifespan reinventing the wheel; you have bigger fish to fry. Yes, I know, you think you don’t need book-learning; you think you’re different and special. So do the other hundred million artists in this world who can’t pay the rent. STOP IT! Learn some practical shit. Be a crazy artist all you want, but take a class in color theory. And another one in Business 101. It’ll do you a world of good and you’ll be glad you did. (In other words, don’t be like me!!!)