Miami’s Art Basel has become a premier international arts event, connecting artists and patrons across all genres. Here, we catch up with Getty Images photographer, Alexander Tamargo on his experiences in entertainment photography, his most important piece of equipment and what first-time Art Basel visitors should do before the events are underway.
How did you get started in photography?
Alexander Tamargo: Right after I graduated Florida International University, I landed a full time job with the Miami Heat, where I was supervisor of retail operations. About two years into my job, I was given the responsibility to develop an e-commerce website for the Miami Heat which required me to work with a point-and-shoot camera to capture images of the merchandise that would be posted to the site.
One day, unexpectedly, the community affairs department at the Heat reached out to me, asking if I could cover an event for them. “Wow,” I thought, “it’s one thing to cover an event, it’s another to take pictures of merchandise for a website!” I decided to take the assignment, but there was no way I’d show up with a point-and-shoot camera. I ended up borrowing a camera from my Dad, who’s also a photographer, so I would at least look the part. I also asked my Dad for some tips, but as good as a photographer as he may be, he’s not the best of teachers, so I learned on the fly.
In the end, they really liked my pictures and began using me for other events so I thought, “OK I can do this!”
How did you come to work with Getty Images?
AT: The first 6 months to a year of my photography career were difficult, as I was basically filling in for my Dad at assignments he couldn’t take. During that time, I was contacted by Managing Editor at Getty Images, Carole Moore, about an opportunity to work directly with Getty Images. She actually contacted both my Dad and I, and while the opportunity wasn’t right for my Dad, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me. So I met with Carole, signed a contract and became one of Getty Images’ go-to shooters in Miami.
This was 10 years ago now, and since then, I’ve been prominently covering all the important events in the South Florida area, as well as the Caribbean. At first, working with Getty was new to the people here, but it didn’t take long for clients to realize that with Getty Images, they were getting a worldwide reach and exposure that you just can’t get anywhere else.
How would you characterize your shooting style?
AT: It’s so dependent nowadays on what the client wants. I feel that when it comes to corporate events, I’m sometimes restricted creatively, but always aim to produce the highest quality images based on the desired shot list. But when I feel I’ve developed a certain rapport with a client or brand, I feel they’re more open to my creative style and that’s where I feel like I can really push myself creatively. I personally don’t like to plan much for an event because I feel the most creative moments happen by chance. The key is to be ready!
How do you prepare yourself for Art Basel?
AT: Other than the usual routine of making sure my equipment is ready to go and all my batteries are charged, I don’t prepare too much in the sense that I don’t have a certain routine I follow. I do like to have my schedule and my shot list ahead of time. It’s important to know about the pictures a client expects from me prior to the event because when I’m shooting for a client, they’re my priority. It’s imperative that I get the images they want and it’s extremely important to make sure I’m there on time – that’s the extent of my preparation.
What kind of kit do you bring with you?
AT: I always say that my number one piece of equipment are my eyes. It’s one thing to see something, it’s another to capture it the way you visualize it. As far as actual equipment, I have (2) Canon 5d Mark III’s, a Canon 50 mm f/1.2, a Canon 24-105mm f/4, and a Canon 70-200mm IS f/2.8, (2) 600 EX RT Speedlite flashes. I also carry a Canon external battery pack, my stroboframe brackets, which I feel are essential tools because I don’t like pictures with awkward shadows. And then I have a little portable soft box that I put on my flash just in case I want a soft diffused light for on-the-fly type portraits. And lots and lots of AA batteries!
Another piece of equipment that I have started to carry along with me is the Sony RX100 M3 camera. It’s a little point-and-shoot camera, but it packs a punch – the image quality is outstanding! It’s a great camera when you want to get a little more creative and when you want to get different angles that you can’t with your bigger setup. I’ve actually used it more and more for events lately and it’s worked out great.
What types of things, people and places do you shoot for Art Basel?
AT: It, of course, depends on the assignment, but I’ll do everything from interior art gallery photos, to VIP social events, to the most private of parties. It may run the gamut from shooting still pieces of art, to a party atmosphere, celebs and any other specific coverage our clients request. What I try to convey in my photos is that I want to give someone who isn’t able to be at the event the feeling that they were there — the feeling that it’s somewhere they’d want to be.
What should novices be prepared for at Art Basel? Any words of advice?
AT: With so many events going on in and around Miami and Miami Beach, traffic and parking are things you need to be prepared for. For example, I’d recommend getting acquainted with a local taxi driver so they can be your go-to person. There may be evenings where you have several back-to-back events, so if you’re going to be Baseling as they say, proper transportation is something you need to prepare yourself for.