Q&A with MARC HOBERMAN compiled by Lizar van Reenen
Born with photography in his blood and unlike most children, he spent his time travelling around the world on photographic journeys with his father. He published his first book …at the ‘ripe old’ age of 12 – which was inducted into the Smithsonian permanent collection. By the time he reached 18 years old, he had several successful publications under his belt. Then again, from age 5, he started viewing the world very differently, already. It was when he received his first set of Leica’s. What an unusual childhood? I suppose, not so unusual if you are the youngest son of a renowned travel photographer, Gerald Hoberman also known as the “Indiana Jones of Photography”. How did this adventurous childhood turn out in the end? Today, Marc Hoberman is known as a world-renowned photographer within his own right, a designer, an author and the owner of HOBERMAN Photographic Publishers.
DURING YOUR TEENAGE YEARS, DID YOU EVER WISH YOU LIVED A ‘NORMAL TEENAGE LIFE’? DO YOU REGARD YOUR ADULT LIFE TO BE ‘NORMAL’? Not so much during my teenage years, but as an adult my bucket list is kind of upside down. Last week I returned from New York, it was my dream to hang out with my wife and friends sans camera, take a $10 bus tour and try out burgers. As a teenager I flew for 8 hours in a helicopter over Manhattan, had a private tour of the NYSE, met the mayor, photographed backstage at Broadway shows etc. It was all great but a lot of lonely work at the same time so now I’m trying to catch up on the “normal” stuff.
HAVING THE HOBERMAN SURNAME, WAS IT DIFFICULT ESTABLISHING YOURSELF AS A PHOTOGRAPHER WITHIN YOUR OWN RIGHT AND WITH YOUR OWN STYLE? My father did everything he could for that not to happen but it was definitely a challenge. Specifically in South Africa, his name often found its way onto my work (our travel/wildlife photography style is very similar). I moved to London and focused on international destinations, other industries (fashion, Hollywood etc) where I could find my own thing, and I did so now I’m back and happy being a Hoberman!
WITH YOUR FATHER’S RECENT PASSING, IS THERE ANY PRESSURE TO FILL HIS ‘INDIANA JONES ’ SHOES? There’s a lot of pressure from myself, wanting to keep the dream alive. My father had a legendary amount of energy and I’m not sure I could ever replicate that although I do try!
IT’S BEEN SAID THAT THE HOBERMAN COLLECTION THAT WAS STARTED IN 1999 IS: “A PUBLISHING COMPANY LIKE NO OTHER”. The Hoberman Collection was started as a “hobby” which gave us the freedom to produce photography and books how we really wanted to. Although today it is very much a business, we still produce books first and then follow with the business side. My accountant doesn’t like it but it does make our products special or at least made with heart.
IS IT TRUE THAT YOUR PHOTOSTOCK LIBRARY CONSISTS OF MORE THAN 10 000 IMAGES? HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO CAREFULLY SELECT THE IMAGES FOR THE LIBRARY? Our library is the fastest-growing side of our business and although not advertised we’ve recently passed the 20 000 mark. Producing the photostock collection has been a giant exercise is masochism, I’ve selected, retouched and keyworded almost all of it over many years of evenings and weekends (the image yield is probably 5% of what we’ve actually taken) – but it is super exciting to see where stock images end up. We’ve sold stock to Time Magazine, National Geographic, Vanity Fair etc. Biggest sale to date – a Voortrekker monument photo to an airline office in Mexico!
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS VARY FROM LANDSCAPES, TO FOOD, TO FASHION, ARCHITECTURE, WILDLIFE, ETC. UNLIKE MOST PHOTOGRAPHERS, YOU DON’T SEEM TO SPECIALISE IN ANY PARTICULAR GENRE OF PHOTOGRAPHY. WHY IS THAT? My father would always get upset when he was branded a “landscape photographer” or a “wildlife” photographer, to me it looked like a compliment but to him it was a limiting label. He believed in specializing (he began his professional career as a “fine art numismatic photographer” so that’s pretty much as specialized as it gets!) but he didn’t believe in specializing for too long. I was brought up in that school and I’m so grateful for it – photography is such fun and there’s so much adventure to be had. Once you’ve taken up a new genre challenge, enjoy it, master it and then use it to jump into the next adventure. I became the official photographer for BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television) by showing my wildlife photography!
THE STELLA’S SEPHARDIC COOKBOOK HAS BEEN AND STILL IS A HUGE SUCCESS. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO SHOOT/ACCUMULATE ALL THE IMAGES. WHAT WAS AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LIKE? The production for “Stella’s Sephardic Table” took almost three years to complete – it was a very interesting but big subject to tackle and to tell the story properly we photographed in Harare (at the author’s home), as well as Cape Town, Rhodes Island and New York. The food photography was mainly photographed at the author’s beautiful home with natural light, and with us both being perfectionists we did 14-hours-a-day 10 days stretches at a time to get the pictures just right – not for the faint-hearted…but I sure got well-fed!
A JAPANESE POP STAR SINGING ON HOT NAMIBIAN DUNES. A LION CUB DEVOURING A HOME COOKED MEAL. A PLUMP SWEET OLD LADY PROUDLY POSING WITH HER GIGANTIC FISH. WHO COMES UP THESE IDEAS? YOU OR THE CLIENT? I’m not particularly good with coming up with ideas before a shoot so I leave things to present themselves. It’s not the most responsible way to work but I find it so much more exciting and rewarding to let things unfold on the spur of the moment. Magic set up and magic happening look very different!
YOU’VE RECENTLY BEEN COMMISSIONED TO PHOTOGRAPH THE DERELICT INTERIORS OF THE HISTORIC V&A SITES. TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE PHOTOGRAPHING ‘TRACES OF OUR HISTORY’? This was an absolute dream job – The V&A Waterfront are developing the Silo buildings near the clock tower and I was commissioned to produce an art shoot of the abandoned, rusting, cobwebbed, eerie interior, filled with turn-of-the-century machinery, peeling walls, deceased pigeons and streaming light…and all to be removed and cleaned up after the shoot! I spent 18 hours wandering around inside on my own, photographing almost 2 000 images and smiling a lot. What excited me most was shooting details of the walls which resembled fascinating abstract art – flaking coats of paint, oil splatters, hand-written notes, even 100 years of Pollock-inspired pigeon poop! We had to choose a small selection for a permanent exhibition at No2 Silo (the adjacent development) which was a heart-breaking selection. I hope to be able to showcase the rest somewhere soon.
YOU’VE HAD MANY PUBLICATIONS OVER THE YEARS. WHICH TO DATE WOULD YOU REGARD AS YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL PUBLICATION AND WHY? I’d say that “Namibia” has been our most successful all-round publication in terms of both sales and producing memorable images. A newspaper once attributed Namibia’s most famous dune (Dune 45) to “the Dune that Gerald Hoberman made famous” – which is of course totally untrue but it shows how strongly people can associate with pictures. A few months ago I published a completely new version of our original book which I’m very proud of and was honoured to have a foreword by the President of Namibia.
WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PHOTOGRAPHY ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED FROM YOUR FATHER? My father showed his advice more than speaking it, and the advice was, as I put it “dogged, bloody single mindedness” (sometimes he’d say “foo-oocus” in a Mr Miyagi voice!) When the camera was in his hands he would switch off his usual mild manners, lose his shyness, throw out the concept of time, muster up the energy of a teenager and let nothing or no-one get in his way of “the shot”. I can’t believe some of the brave (ridiculous) things that I do when I’m looking through the viewfinder but it is this exhilarating escapism that is the gift of photography!
VIEW MORE OF MARC HOBERMAN’S WORK AT www.hobermancollection.com
view our website www.capeclick for more on our photo tours and walks