Based in New York City, Paul Mobley travels the world to photograph people. Paul has worked with a range of celebrity, corporate, advertising and editorial clients, including Sony, Citigroup, Ford, Apple and Max Factor. As a personal project, Mobley has traveled across the United States several times to capture local farmers and “Everyday Americans”. No matter if it is a celebrity, corporate or editorial client or it is an “Everyday American”, Paul aims to capture the “face of a thousand words”.
We met up with Paul and got to know him a bit better.
How did you become a photographer?
As a freshman in high school I was a music lover, going to concerts and getting great seats. I thought I could make the experience better by taking pictures. My folks gave me my first camera for my birthday and I started shooting and working for the school newspaper. I got a Kodak scholarship to go to the College for Creative Studies, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I went to college and got my BFA in photography. I then got on a bus in Detroit with very few dollars in my pocket and moved to NYC. Feeling very afraid and not having much of a game plan, I just figured I would get there and “jump right in.” I then assisted, for 3-4 years with many different photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, David Langley and Steve Steigman. After that, I realized that it was time to try and make it on my own.
When you look back on your career, are there any situations you look back on and think “this was a defining moment for me?
There were many life-changing moments along the way and as I reflect back, the ones that helped me most, were to go with my gut, not listen to anyone else. Shoot what I loved, and keep moving forward by constantly making new images. Even today, I follow that same advice.
I feel very fortunate that I was able to assist so many photographers with such diverse style and talent skill. My first break came a few years after I went out on my own. I had shown my portfolio to hundreds of clients, all saying, “We’ll get back to you.” I was loosing faith and my confidence was at an all time low. In my mind, I was running out of patience and ready to give up. One art director must have seen it in my eyes. Her name was Denise. She gave me my first job, it was small, but it was a job. I will never forget her name. It was in that moment my life had changed forever. I was going to be a photographer. What I also learned that day was no matter how talented you are, it’s your business, communication skills and perseverance that will further your career. Another reason I am still shooting today is my old college professor, Walter. Walter had a very critical, tough-as-nails style in his teaching. No matter how good my pictures were, he would remind me that good isn’t always good enough. It helped me to strive to be better. Today, I still hear Walter “whispering in my ear” while I’m shooting. He was by far, the biggest influence in my career.
How do you renew your photography?
From day one I’ve always wanted to be a portrait photographer. I love people. Love to learn about their lives and love basic communication with others. I think that is the basis of my approach and how I make my images. It has to start with good communication with your subject. The camera becomes important as a recording device, to capture what you see with your eyes and feel with your heart. If the image does not come from within, the camera becomes useless. A lot of my techniques have come from looking at lots of different photography, listening to music and trying to force myself to make an image that doesn’t look like anyone else’s. Irving Penn and Richard Avedon were the inspiration for my work. The pictures that they made where so powerful and graphically beautiful, they just spoke to me. They have both inspired my career since the beginning.
In your opinion, what is the worst part about being a photographer?
The worst part of doing what I do is the 80% of my time that is spent doing the business, marketing and putting our fires that go along with being a commercial photographer.
And the best?
The best part is finally getting behind the camera and “doing what I do” with my subject. It is always a joy when what you feel inside comes through in the final image.
Where are you with your photography today, and how does Phase One fit into this equation?
My career today is primarily comprised of entertainment, celebrity and advertising work. I have two coffee table books that have been published; one is the “American Farmer”, the other is “Everyday Heroes”. I’ve been using Phase One equipment for many years and know that my final images will be second to none. Recently, I’ve been using the IQ250 and am completely blown away by the superb image quality.
I spent most of my "film days" shooting with medium format. It always felt right to me. Loved the size, feel in my hands, and most importantly, the QUALITY.
When digital came out, I was worried, that the quality would diminish. I've always based my photographs on sharp, flawless imagery. The Phase One system has always been second to none. I'm so excited about shooting medium format again! The file quality is actually "too good". Sometimes I can't believe I'm looking at a real photograph. But, if you can shoot with the best, why not? The lenses are tack sharp, and the selection is more than adequate for any working photographer. Whenever I have a job that requires the finest quality available, I will always shoot medium format, and shoot Phase One. The new IQ250 is really the new standard, with the incredible file size, amazing 14 f-stop dynamic range, why choose anything else! It's simply the BEST.