Men of a Certain Age
I was going through my Instagram like I am usually doing and I came across all these amazing photographs of these men. I had to find out who was responsible for these. That is when I came across Ben Fink the creator of all of the hot sizzling pictures on his Instagram. Ben was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about himself, art and the projects he is working on.
Tell me a little about yourself, I hear you have 30 years behind the camera lens.
I do, it’s kind of scary to think about. I am now 55, and I just don’t feel that old. My boyfriend says I am like a 12-year-old because of all the energy I have.
I look back to when I started my career in Memphis after I graduated from school. I had a business for 10 or 15 years before I moved to New York. I was one of the top food photographers at one time.
Are you still doing food photography?
I do more directing commercials for big companies like McDonald’s. I work in both the still world and the motion world.
What feeds your soul?
My soul feeding comes from my photography and currently the series that I am doing, it is very personal and close to my heart. How this came about was I decided to leave a partner of 20 years to do something really different with my life and pursue my dream.
What was your dream?
I dreamed of this person I wanted to meet and I realized I had to become that person in order to attract that person. That is what I did. I became what I wanted.
Did that lead to your series “Men of a Certain Age?”
It did lead to the series. I found that this generation is not our father’s generation. We are a younger generation and this we have a lot of history. Many of us have had friends that have died, we are survivors. We have achieved a lot in many ways, we have overcome a lot. The AIDS crisis, drugs, if you made it through those things you are a survivor. Many of those things weren’t in my world and I am meeting so many people and photographing so many people that are survivors of that. I’m a survivor of my own history. I survived the crisis in my career.. Survival is almost like the rise of the Phoenix. Sort of recreating, coming out better, crafting what you want to be.
So the series “Men of a Certain Age” is a lot of what you went through?
Yes, and it was also photographing my boyfriend, he is my ideal partner. One day Anthony, my partner said, “Why don’t you photograph other people your age?” I said, “Hmm, that’s a good idea.”
Then I started talking to more and more people about this idea Anthony came up with. It felt like it was going to be a book, so I ran with the idea. From the series I am astonished at how much beauty I found in this series.
In all your photography for this series, you seem to catch this moment. Can you define the moment?
I was photographing a guy last week. He was on a sofa in front of us. In all of his Instagram pictures, he is always looking in the camera, like coy. I told him, “I don’t want you to look at the camera I don’t want your normal look. I see you differently.” Then all of a sudden, there is this aura that came around him on his face, his whole demeanor changed. The pictures that I took almost didn’t look like him in real life. He took on a different look that almost resembled an icon.
I believe these is this in-between moments and this is what I am hunting for. I like getting these moments. Someone looks away and looks back at you, and you feel like you just caught a moment. Sometimes catching that moment can be a little unpredictable, sometimes it can be pretty straightforward. However, they feel more casual. Almost like you stepped into someone’s life, and you kind of know them on a certain level.
What drives your passion for art and photography. I think you already touched on this, but is there anything you want to add?
It’s different at different times. With my commercial clients, I want things to be really beautiful. Like when I shoot a commercial for a McDonald’s hamburger I want it to be the most luscious thing you have ever seen. I want you to feel like you can pick it up and eat it.
When I am shooting a person, my typical guy, I want you to feel that desire through the lens. I want you to feel the masculinity, the love, the attraction. Something is going on beyond what you are seeing. You have a few seconds of a story but there is a larger story going on underneath it all. That is the drive.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a documentary with another director about the Imperial Court System in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. I will be photographing the book, and co-directing a film.
Can you tell us a little more about the Imperial Court System?
The Imperial Court started about 60 years ago in Portland, Oregon and spread across the country. It consisted of different families, some of which resemble the Elizabethan or Victorian era. Once a year they come together in their respective cities and nominate a new Emperor and Empress. This is the largest event of the year. The newly crowned, holster their position for one year in which time they raise money for their favorite charities. The coronation that I attended in this spring of 2008 inspired me to take some pictures and they looked amazing. I said to myself, “OMG this looks like a book. My co-director and I are seeking funding now and we start in October.
What is one of your most defining moments in life?
I feel like I go through a defining moment in life every 10 or 15 years. My last one was that I decided after almost 20 years with the same partner, that I couldn’t be with him anymore. I had to go to another type of dream and to trust that. I lived through that even though and it was really hard. However, my last partner and I are still friends and we work together.
Every day you have to get up and decide to do your best for that day. I don’t want to sound cliché, but it happens on a daily basis for me. I feel like I live a really big life. I try and live not looking back and regretting something that I really wanted to do.
Changing gears, is there anything you are reading right now?
I am into self care, the things that I read are books about taking care of my spirit and health. I am more into books on tape, and I study a lot of meditation. The book that has most influenced me lately is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I run in that crowd where Eckhart Tolle hangs out. I am part of that Mind Valley scene.
Can you tell us a little more about Mind Valley?
They publish and support lectures with people like Eckart Tolle. I go to their big events about every six months in places Greece, Costa Rica, and Bali. I have done a lot of courses with them. I did tantra, an 8-month course on being an intuitive and life training classes. It is crazy at what developed from that.
It is like tuning into yourself and being able to tune into others. Kind of like go with your gut and read people. A very intuitive non-judgmental way. I did that with Christie Marie Sheldon who is an amazing teacher.
Sounds like meditation and Buddhism. Is that what feeds your spirit?
I know you touched on the Imperial Court System documentary currently in the works, but is there anything else on the horizon for you.
There are people that don’t fit into my older men series “Men of a Certain Age.” I am just being spontaneous, you kind of have to put things in pigeon holes a bit. When I shoot someone younger I put them over here, when I do someone my age or older I put them over there. This whole other project “The Imperial Court” will have its own life.
When these projects all come to fruition, does it mean my life will change? Maybe, I could go on tour to share about the projects and be able to speak about them, because it is so much more than pictures, it’s stories.
Ben, thank you for sitting down with me and sharing a glimpse into your life. If you want to keep up with Ben you can catch him on INSTAGRAM and TWITTER. Also, keep a watch out for the documentary coming out in the near future about the Imperial Court System.