This interview with photographer Kyle Johnson originally appeared in our free…
Here at PhotoShelter, we believe in the products and services we build. We love what we develop. We love what we design. We love what we market and we love to help you learn how to make it all work for your needs.
That’s why using our own products is so important to us. Our newest blog series gives you the chance to get to know members of the PhotoShelter staff — what we do here, why we love photography, and how we’re using Beam, the portfolio website platform we’ve all helped to create.
Senior Software Developer and longtime PhotoShelter-er Peter Balderston took a quick break from a driven schedule of designing, building, programming and shooting (he takes a photo of his lunch every single day, mind you) to tell us a little bit about his love for photography, and the part he played in the creation of Beam.
Describe your role with PhotoShelter. How did you end up working here?
I’m a senior software developer, which basically means I’ve been around long enough to remember when the entire company could fit into a minivan.
I came to New York for a trial run at another job, two years after college. It ended up not working out, so with 2 weeks left on my shady brooklyn sublet I decided to give Craigslist a trawl and happened upon a scrappy little photography startup looking to change the world. I’d always had a love for both photography and programming, so it was a perfect match.
Give me a little history around your love for photography. To start, would you describe yourself as a photographer?
Let’s go with “enthusiast”. I’ve been shooting with a SLR since I unearthed my dad’s Minolta SRT-101 in high school. I bring my camera (a Canon 5D MkII) almost everywhere I go and shoot whatever I find interesting. I have a deep admiration for well made photos and can occasionally take a decent shot but am by no means a pro. I do have a lot of fun, though that is not my only motivator.
The allure of photography for me resides in its promise to stop time, not just in the sense of fractions of seconds, but fractions of eras. The photos I treasure the most act as portals to another land, rectangular keys to memories I might only hazily recall otherwise, beacons of record from a world now easing into the murky depths of history. This is one reason I shoot, to send the past to the future.
But of course, we must live in the present, always, which brings me to the other half of my shooting equation: clarity. A good photograph helps me understand the world.
The old trope is that cameras steal their subject’s soul, and this I believe, for the best photos, is completely true, minus the theft. More like copying. Distilling. (That somehow a mass of glass, metal, and, these days, silicon can work to vitrify so much feeling into something as ephemeral as the glow of a screen is indeed nothing short of magical, but I digress). I find that being able to experience something in such an isolated state, removed from the unimportant noise of its surroundings really, excuse the pun, sharpens my thinking on it. It’s a bit like meditation, reversed: instead of quieting your mind to focus on your subject, you quiet your subject to focus your mind.
That, or taking good photos is just you know, fun, period. The reasons above are merely mantras I use to slog through my mountains of not-so-good shots.
Can you talk about how your job as a senior software developer specifically relates or related to the creation of the Beam platform?
Conceptually you can break every aspect of Beam that you see in your browser into three parts: The widgets you click on, the system that organizes and displays those widgets on pages, and the communication layer that synchronizes information (galleries, images, collections, etc.) with our cloud. I designed and built the last part, the communication layer, though like most other developers on the “Beam Team” I also pitched in to help build out specific templates and widgets: I had a hand in the Navigation bar, Video, About, and Contact pages, though I certainly also had some help along the way from my wonderful teammates.
Why did you chose Marquee, the Beam template you are currently using?
I shoot of a lot wide angle imagery that really benefits from being displayed as massively as possible, so Marquee’s full bleed style is a natural fit.
Any chance you can tell me what you are working on now here at PhotoShelter?
Focal point selection, so that Beam always displays an image’s center of interest regardless of crop.
And what’s next for you in the photo world?
I’ve got a couple of personal projects in the fire that I need to find more time to finish. Two are close to completion at the moment, though: One is a five year long running piece of self-documentary that I’m searching for a non-boring way to collate and present (hopefully with the help of some custom Beam widgets), and the other is a portrait series commissioned by and for one of my friends. I wish I could elaborate more, but they are both a little hush-hush. Beyond those I’m mostly continuously working to improve my craft.